Two Hong Kong domestic helpers praised for foiling phone scams

Two Indonesian women receive praise from city police for their quick thinking

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 12 January, 2017, 7:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 12 January, 2017, 9:09am

Two Indonesian domestic helpers recently helped prevent their employers from falling for phone scams, thanks to their quick thinking and fluency in Cantonese. Their actions helped their bosses from potentially losing a combined HK$50,000.

Indonesian domestic helper, Wiwik, was at the home of her 78-year-old employer on December 7, who had previously suffered a stroke, when her boss received a telephone call from a person claiming to be her son.

The “son” said he was in Shenzhen and gave his mother a new Hong Kong phone number for her to contact him, claiming he would be back in Hong Kong the next day.

The following day, her “son” called back and said he was being held by mainland police after he was caught with a prostitute. He said he needed 20,000 yuan (HK$22,394) to be released.

Wiwik, a fluent Cantonese speaker, overheard the conversation and realised something was amiss.

“I knew [my employer’s] son was in Canada, so I sent him a WhatsApp [message] the next day,” she said.

The son replied that he was still in Canada. She then realised it was a scam and convinced her employer not to send the money.

It’s our fault that we did not know that the Indonesian domestic helpers [are] more fluent in Cantonese than in English. We thought that both Filipinos and Indonesians [only] spoke English
Assistant Regional Crime Prevention Officer Peter Wong Poon-yam

Wiwik reported the case to the police the following day.

The other case involved an 85-year-old employer of helper, Istikomah, where a person claiming to be her son said he needed to borrow HK$30,000 from her.

The employer, “frightened and flustered”, believed the claim and was ready to deposit the money into a bank account given to her by the person on the phone.

Istikomah, highly proficient in Cantonese, overheard the conversation and intervened, advising her not to believe the identity of the caller.

Istikomah contacted the employer’s two sons, who said they were well and did not need any money.

The two maids’ conduct was recognised by the Hong Kong Police and they received letters of appreciation from the force on Wednesday.

Wiwik and Istikomah’s fluency in Cantonese seemed to surprise at least one member of the city’s police force.

“It’s our fault that we did not know that the Indonesian domestic helpers [are] more fluent in Cantonese than in English,” Assistant Regional Crime Prevention Officer Peter Wong Poon-yam said. “We thought that both Filipinos and Indonesians [only] spoke English.”

Indonesian Consul General to Hong Kong and Macau, Tri Tharyat, along with other Indonesian domestic helpers, were on hand for the award ceremony at Kowloon East Regional Police Headquarters.

“They may have done something little, but it has a big impact on the community,” he said.

“I reminded [the domestic helpers at the ceremony] that all of us can do something to prevent crimes.”

In 2016, there were 1,138 telephone deception cases reported to police. Losses through telephone deception amounted to HK$221,580,000 - more than HK$600,000 per day.