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Financial advice for migrant domestic workers from the team at Enrich HK!

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With Valentine’s Day following hot on the heels of Chinese New Year (CNY), February can be a busy time for migrant domestic workers. This month, we’re going to take a look at some of the challenges that can come up around each of these celebrations. As always, our aim is to ensure that as a domestic worker, you are able to protect your finances, and plan and save for your future.

Making the most of lai-see
You will be receiving lai-see (red money packets) during CNY. You really need the extra money right now, but you don’t want to spend all of it immediately, like you’ve done before. What’s the best way to use it?

Whenever you receive any extra money, your options are always either to spend it, save it or invest it. Let’s explore each one!

Spend it: Spending this money on CNY treats isn’t the answer, but you could use it to pay off any outstanding debts. Your bonus could also cover several smaller but necessary expenses, like the service fee for your mobile phone or remittance cable charge costs for when you send money home.

Save it: Could you save this money for your long-term goals, such as your children’s education or a large purchase for your home? Or could you put it towards an emergency fund? We’ve talked a lot about how crucial it is to have an emergency fund, so that you can bounce back if you lose your job, or have urgent medical needs.

Invest it: Why not make your lai see work for you by investing it? Research and carefully consider investment options available, or simply invest in your own future by taking a course to learn some new skills. And one thing to remember: While you may have received a good amount of lai-see in the past, this year may be different – given the current situation, you may receive less. So if you’ve ear-marked this money towards a certain goal, make sure you have a backup plan.

Avoiding love scams
You’re single on Valentine’s Day this year, and you’ve been thinking of signing up to an online dating app to try and meet someone. You’re a little nervous as you’ve heard about ‘love scams.’ How can you tell if someone is a scammer?

Online dating is becoming an increasingly popular way to meet new people, and there’s nothing wrong with trying something new. It can be scary at first, but it’s great that you’re putting yourself out there. Having said that, you’re absolutely right to be a little bit wary. There are many people who try to take advantage of others on dating apps, and if you’re not careful, you can land yourself in serious trouble, potentially losing your hard-earned money or even your job. Love scammers can target anybody, and many Hong Kong residents have fallen victim to these scams.

Firstly, what does a love scam look like? Typically, scammers find their target on social media platforms and dating sites. They get to know the victim and quickly establish an online relationship, even though they might never meet in real life. They then use different excuses to swindle money from the victim.

Scammers usually try to portray themselves as someone who is quite attractive (often using a fake profile picture), with a good job and income. They might say they have a job outside of Hong Kong, or very far away from your area – or one which has odd hours so they’re not available to meet easily. They might also immediately claim to be looking for a serious, longterm relationship.

A big red flag to watch out for is if someone professes love for you sooner than you would expect, especially without meeting you in person first. They might also quickly try to lure you off the dating app or social site (for example, to chat on WhatsApp), to minimise the record of their conversations. They might offer to send you more photographs in exchange for your contact information, or even claim to be leaving the dating app/ cancelling their subscription. Their reason for this? They’ll say they don’t need to date anyone other than you. Scammers ultimately want to get access to your money – they might claim to urgently need money for emergencies, hospital bills or travel.

When using online dating apps, always remember to protect yourself. For example, keep your personal information (your phone number, address and work location) confidential. Limit your discussions to the dating site, especially until you meet the person face to face. Do not send them photos or videos of friends or family, or which reveal your location. Never, ever send money to someone you’ve met online.

If you feel you’ve encountered a scammer, there are several things you can do. Firstly, stop communicating with the person immediately. Secondly, report any evidence to the police, including monetary losses. (Contact the Hong Kong Police’s Anti- Deception Coordination Centre – its Anti-Scam Helpline (18222) is a free consultation line, available 24 hours a day.) Lastly, consider reporting the scammer’s profile to the app or social media site.

You certainly shouldn’t be afraid of everyone you meet online, and you’ll be just fine if you look out for these key warning signs. Just keep a good head on your shoulders, and protect yourself and your hardearned money.

Photo courtesy of Enrich HK

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