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Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 25 June 2018

Warning over fake smartphones being sold online

Police issue a warning over fake Samsung and Apple devices on sale in the UAE for as little as Dh700 as one woman tells of how she was stung. 

Counterfeit products are destroyed and recycled in Al Garhoud. Antonie Robertson / The National
Counterfeit products are destroyed and recycled in Al Garhoud. Antonie Robertson / The National

Smartphone shoppers shouldn't be tempted by heavily discounted models sold online, police said, after one popular Facebook marketplace was found to be selling fake plastic iPhones.

Dubai Police said counterfeit dealers are cashing in on the desire for the latest device but handing over knock-offs that either do not work or could catch fire.

In Dubai last year alone, fake items valued at Dh1.6 billion were seized. Mobiles topped the list of confiscated goods, with 14.6 million handsets seized by Dubai’s Department of Economic Development.

The @emiratesmarket2016 Facebook page is selling, among other devices, iPhone 7s for Dh700 and Samsung Galaxy S8s for Dh750. Normally, iPhone 7s start from Dh2,599 and S8s from Dh2,499.

One shopper, Jennifer Alvero, 25, a hospitality worker, thought she was getting a new Apple iPhone 7 delivered for a great price.

Instead she received a plastic iPhone that switched on but ran a programme other than the official iOS.

“I saw advertisements for iPhones and Samsung mobile phones on the @emiratesmarket2016 Facebook page,” the Filipina said.

“It said iPhone7 for Dh700 and other new phones for a low price. I got very excited, especially after my Samsung phone got broken recently.”

Ms Alvero said she had been saving money for a holiday this month and did not want to spend a lot of money, so was taken in by the prices.

“I paid Dh700 for the phone I ordered on delivery. I was happily opening the delivery package only to find it’s a fake iPhone,” she said.

“The seller said it’s a flash sale and the item is original, similar to the ones being sold by Etisalat and du.

“But when I received the package and opened it, the phone was plastic, not metal, and felt light. I called the delivery man to come back to take the phone and return the money. Instead, he blocked my number.

“I contacted the person who I spoke with on WhatsApp in the first place and he said that he would check and get back to me, but nothing yet.”

Ms Alvero said there were several obvious giveaways that the phone she received was fake.

“When I started using the phone, I found that the touch screen and Apple logo were completely different to the original. Among the features that are completely different are the welcome screen, font, camera quality and even how the software operates,” she said.

Ms Alvero said she is resigned to the fact she has lost her money after receiving the phone on July 25, but wanted to alert others to the scam.

“I want to warn people about such online sites. I know it’s my mistake to trust the seller, but they should not exist in the first place.”

The @emiratesmarket2016 page offers a variety of products for sale at low prices. The iPhone 6 is priced at Dh550, a 65-inch TV is Dh2,999, while slimming products can be bought for Dh175.

The seller told The National that he offers “up to 70 per cent discounts”, but when confronted about selling fake products, did not respond.

Police said buying fake iPhones is dangerous because there were reports recently of them catching fire.

“This is an intellectual theft and it’s punishable by law,” said Maj Gen Abdul Quddus Obaidli, whose Dubai Police unit investigates counterfeit goods.

The law states that selling fake goods is illegal but buying them is not. Sellers are typically fined Dh15,000 for a first offence, Dh30,000 for the second and arrested for subsequent offences.

“Fake mobile phones are dangerous and pose significant risk, as they might catch fire, as per recent incidents in other countries,” Maj Gen Obaidli said. “Online shoppers get carried away when they see items being sold for very cheap prices.

“Sellers who launch websites to sell counterfeit products, including mobile phones, will be hunted and arrested by police and brought to justice.”

Maj Gen Obaidli said residents should not buy from unknown websites. “It is essential that residents buy from known and safe websites, especially ones that share details about their operations.”

Earlier this year, an OECD report found that nearly a fifth of mobile phones and a quarter of video game consoles shipped internationally are fake, as a growing trade in counterfeit electronics hits consumers, manufacturers and public finances.