UAE residents urged to be vigilant against new wave of ‘sophisticated’ scams
Dubai ( Web News )
UAE residents are being urged to be vigilant against a new wave of scams across the country, including fraudsters purporting to be from Dubai Police, prominent local banks and governmental bodies, with experts warning against giving away sensitive data on the phone or via email.
Lawyers and experts across the emirate and wider UAE have told Al Arabiya English that residents should exercise caution before clicking on links or sharing personal data to avoid “a world of financial trouble.”
In Dubai, a recent emirate-wide scam has seen residents receive an email asking them to urgently pay traffic fines. The email contains a link for payment. It appears official, with a logo purporting to be from the official body and warning that – should the recipient fail to pay – they may be subject to penalties such as fines or legal action.
“According to our records, you have recently been penalized for a road traffic offense,” it reads. It then asks the recipient to settle the payment within 24 hours.
Leading UAE bank FAB has also issued a circular to its customers warning its customers not to fall foul of an ongoing scam, informing recipients they have won a prize.
“Do not pay an advance fee to claim a prize or to receive a package,” it said. “Do not be a victim of scams. Be responsible and alert.”
Emirates NBD has also launched a UAE-wide safe banking campaign after reports of customers being targeted by fraudsters.
Furthermore, scores of residents have reported receiving text messages claiming to be from the UAE’s Emirates Post and asking recipients to click on an external link. It has led to the authority warning against such scams.
In a statement given to Al Arabiya English year, Emirates Post said: “Emirates Post is aware of the increasing number of spam and fraud targeting customers of major courier and eCommerce companies inside and outside the UAE. It remains dedicated to maintaining the trust and confidence of its customers by proactively combating fraudulent online schemes.”
Scams ‘increasingly sophisticated’
Michael Kortbawi, Partner at BSA law firm in the UAE, told Al Arabiya English that while scams are not new, they are surging – and becoming more sophisticated.
“Certainly, the rise in scams, particularly during the year-end holidays, has become a growing concern with cyber-criminals utilizing increasingly sophisticated methods to deceive individuals and companies in the UAE,” he said. “Prevalent scams involve offenders posing as representatives, particularly from well-known institutions such as prominent local banks and governmental bodies.”
“In these incidents, scammers often contact individuals and companies, claiming that there are issues with their accounts or that they need to update their Know Your Customer (KYC) data.”
“The callers typically ask for sensitive information such as Emirates ID information, passport numbers, date of birth, and other personal details. Unfortunately, some victims, particularly newcomers to the UAE, fall prey to these scams as they may feel compelled to comply with what they believe are legitimate institutional requests.”
He referenced one “distressing” case his law firm handled, involving a client who was conned out of $410,000 (Dh1.5 million) as scammers posed as UAE immigration department officials.
“The scammers utilized the similar tactics of obtaining personal information, leading to considerable financial losses for the victim,” said Kortbawi. “Residents should remain vigilant and aware of warning signs to protect themselves from falling victim to such scams.”
Common indicators include unsolicited calls, emails, or messages, requests for personal or financial information, pressure tactics, and promises of prizes or rewards in exchange for upfront payments, he said.
“The data indicates that such communications originate mainly from countries such as Nigeria, India, Romania, and Pakistan using mobile numbers. Residents are reminded that no authority or bank will get in touch using mobile numbers.”
Mahmoud Kreidie, lawyer at BSA, told Al Arabiya English that in response to a surge in fraudulent activity, Dubai Police has been actively working to address these scams and has initiated measures against the perpetrators.
“However, tracking down the offenders is challenging, as they often operate from outside the UAE, necessitating a complex level of international cooperation,” he said. “In terms of laws, the UAE has put in place rigorous regulations to combat fraudulent activities.”
Acts falling within the scope of cybercrime, identity theft, and financial fraud are punishable under several laws, including Federal Law No. 34/2021 on Combating Rumors and Cybercrime, he said.
“If fraudsters are caught, they face severe legal consequences, including imprisonment and hefty fines. However, the challenge lies in apprehending these criminals due to their elusive nature and the furtive techniques they employ.”
“As a precautionary measure, residents are advised to verify the legitimacy of any communication, report suspicious and apprehensive activities to the authorities using UAE’s Cybercrime Helpline by calling 800-2626, and refrain from sharing sensitive information over the phone or online unless certain of the legitimacy of the request. It is also highly advisable to check community websites where such scams are reported daily. Protecting oneself from scams is a matter of due diligence. Verify before you trust, because a moment’s caution can save you from a world of financial trouble.”
More than 71 million attempted cyber attacks in the UAE were blocked in the first three quarters of the 2023, the head of the country’s Cybersecurity Council said in November.