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Fraudsters find new ways to part people from their cash

The number of 'sorcery' cases more than doubled in 2010 over the previous year, while a new scam involves copper dust sold as gold.

DUBAI // Although scams are decreasing in Dubai, fraudsters are turning to more novel ways to separate people from their cash, police said yesterday.

Last year 121 economic crimes were registered, according to Maj Saleh Bu Esaiba of the Dubai Police Anti Economic Crimes Section, down from 135 in 2009.

The bulk of the decrease came from a dip in the number of so-called money doubling schemes involving "black dollars" - blank notes that will supposedly convert to real money at the hands of the scammer - which dropped from 49 in 2009 to 25 last year.

The number of "sorcery" cases, however, more than doubled in 2010 over the previous year, from five to 11.

"I implore the public not to resort to black magicians, as they are simply scammers. They offer people magical cures to medical problems and money but they are simply con artists who are looking for quick money," Maj Bu Esaiba said.

He said that in one case last year, a large number of visitors from neighbouring countries arrived in Dubai to go to a sorcerer who claimed that he could summon djinns, or demons, and order them to rain money.

New criminal techniques have also been introduced by con artists, the major said.

"Scammers have been presenting gold dust to unsuspecting people and selling it to them at low prices. They hand them a test sample to check, then complete the deal by presenting them with bags of copper dust and flee with the money," he said.

Another scam involved a cheque-clearing fraud targeting international companies, he said.

"Scammers pose as legitimate businessmen who make large deals with overseas companies and then send a cheque equivalent to more than the purchase amount," he said. "Armed with the prior knowledge that cheques need a couple of days to be cleared, they contact the company and insist the difference be reimbursed in cash, which they get, only for the company to discover that the cheque is bounced later."

Public awareness has helped in stopping all types of such crimes, the major said.

"People's awareness to these crimes has reduced them, but scammers have tried to use new methods," he said.

amustafa@thenational.ae

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