x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 23 July 2017

Dubai regulator issues warning over scam emails

Dubai's financial regulator warns of sophisticated fraudulent emails purporting to offer cheap financing from the Dubai International Financial Centre.

The Dubai Financial Services Authority (DFSA) has warned of seemingly legitimate scam emails offering loans and business licences, purportedly sent from the emirate's financial free zone, as corporate fraud in the UAE becomes more sophisticated

The emails, claiming to represent Abdullah Mohammed Saleh, the governor of the Dubai International Financial Centre, offer loans to individuals worth up to Dh3.5 million (US$953,000) at a rate of 3.5 per cent. "The DFSA strongly advises that you do not respond to any such invitations, and under no circumstances should you send the originator any money," the regulator said.

The emails claim the "loans" are for individuals in the process of providing a project report or feasibility study, seeking licences from the Chamber of Commerce or Ajman's free zone, or signing a memorandum of understanding (MoU) with the centre. The message is sent from an allegedly fraudulent email address, info@boardmemberdifc.org, and contains an MoU using the DIFC letterhead and quasi-legal terminology. The MoU is "a false document which has been used by the scammers to legitimise the fraudulent activity", the DFSA added.

"The DIFC does not provide access to lines of credit, charge fees for accessing funds, or require individuals or companies to be licensed or registered with any free zone in the UAE other than the DIFC."

Corporate fraud has grown in the Middle East, said Tania Fabiani, a partner at PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) in the UAE. "We're seeing the Middle East, as a whole, maturing fairly quickly. As [countries] mature quickly, so do the scams that are perpetrated."

A total of 40 per cent of businesses in the Middle East polled by PwC said they had fallen victim to cybercrime in the past year, compared with a global average of 23 per cent, according to a recent report.

Asset misappropriation was the most common economic crime, with 71 per cent of businesses in the region reporting incidences of this. The proportional number of fraud detected "by chance", which totalled 17 per cent in the region compared with 8 per cent worldwide,pointed to the need for stronger mechanisms to detect fraud. Internal auditors, regulators and firms need to constantly update their skills to prevent new types of fraud, said Paul Koster, the DFSA's chief executive.

"IT systems play a very important role … it's very easy to permit fraud internally if your IT systems aren't secure," Mr Koster said.

ghunter@thenational.ae

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