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Phone scams and the UAE

Phone scams and the UAE

Phone scams in the UAE are so 2008. Or so we thought; a new report shows 189 cases were reported to Abu Dhabi police in 2009 and early 2010.

December 13, 2010 3:36 by

At some point of your stint in the Emirates, you are sure to have gotten that call. You know the one we’re talking about: “Hello Sir/Madam, I am calling from Etisalat. You’ve won Dh100,000. If you want to claim your price you need to send us Dh1,000 by phone credit transfer instantly.”

Of course, they are never as articulate or painless as that; they tend to switch between Urdu, English and some strange form of “Urabic” (Urdu-Arabic). Some of them are also so cheap they ask you to give them a call back to continue the conversation. What is scary (and a little fascinating) is the number of people who fall for these scams.

If it isn’t enough of a warning that an Etisalat employee is calling you from a mobile number (sometimes even a Du number), the fact that you are being asked to pay to claim a massive cash price (in 2010 for crying out loud) should set alarm bells ringing in your head. But apparently, not everyone is as perceptive as Kipp. In fact, Emirates 24/7 reports that in the last year, 189 victims reported such crimes to Abu Dhabi police in 2009 and Q1 2010.

Who are these victims? Brigadier Omair Al Muhairi, Deputy Director of Abu Dhabi Police’s Operations Department, says they’re not who you think. “The sad part is that majority of the victims were educated and holder of high degrees, who are supposed to be more aware of such scams,” he told 24/7.

The news report revealed that Pakistanis topped the list of victims of the scam, with Indians, Bangladeshis, Emiratis, Iranians and Egyptians following after in that exact order.

Lt Col Tariq Al Ghool, the officer in charge of phone scam crime cases in Abu Dhabi Criminal Investigation Department told Emirates 24/7 he puts it down to greed: “Greed is the major cause of them falling for such scams. They must know that no telecommunication company will ask them to transfer credit to any number in return of cash prize.”

Yes, greed is certainly a big part of the problem – it is, after all, what the scammers are preying on. But are we to assume that Pakistanis are more greedy than other nationalities, by extension? That wouldn’t be fair. It is more likely that more Pakistanis are receiving more calls and that a high proportion of callers are speaking Urdu. Meanwhile, the fact that victims are often well educated suggests there may be a certain sophistication to the scammers’ methods.

The practice of phone scamming in the UAE is surely more complicated than there being a high number of greedy victims lying in wait. Do you agree? Have you ever been called? Or even conned?

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1 Comment

  1. Ofiroz on December 14, 2010 10:44 am

    I got a similar call in the beginning of this year. First of all it was so strange to get a mobile call from………….. I asked him straight away to call me from the land line, he gave me some excuse, next was to check the number in my SIM card if it matches the number he gave me, frankly speaking, I checked and it was correct. He called me again and asked to transfer 1000 Dhs worth credit to his number, I told him I will come to his office where ever it is, as my Hindi wasn’t so fluent conversation was almost in English, but he was insisting to talk to him in Hindi, as I continued in English I understood gradually why he was hell bend to talk in Hindi, as his English sucks big time!
    I put up the phone and called the cop. Gave them the mobile number he called from!


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