x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 25 July 2017

Observing life: Simple phone scams are still doing the rounds

It's quite amusing to know that in this age of complicated phishing scams and online identity theft, there are still people out just phoning random numbers and hoping nobody asks any questions.

The other day I was the intended target of one of the most rubbish scams I’ve ever heard. Having answered the phone to a random number, I was greeted by what sounded like three men trying to simultaneously wish me a good afternoon. I left them to it for a bit until, finally, one broke through the ranks and a typical UAE-style opening telephone exchange was sparked.

“Hello, sir.”

“Hello.”

“Good afternoon, sir.”

“Good afternoon.”

“How are you, sir?”

“Very well, thank you.”

We’re all used to these conversational intros and the best tactic is to take a few deep breaths and go along with the niceties until the caller gets to the point. Eventually, it was reached: “I am calling from du company.”

Interesting. I’ve never heard it called “du company” before. I do get regular calls from the phone operator, usually to tell me I have a bill due and to remind me of all the exciting methods of payment, but never has the person on the other end referred to it as “du company”.

“OK.”

“Your number has been selected to win a special prize of Dh200,000.”

Aha! Bring out the scam klaxon! Honk honk!

But then, amid the red lights and sirens, there was a small part of me that thought, just maybe, this could be the real deal. After all, there are often stories in the papers (not this one) about people winning vast sums of cash or fancy cars in competitions so obscure surely nobody could have entered them, often accompanied by someone looking confused while holding an oversized cheque. I’ve also had a fair amount of luck in the past. I recall at university getting a call from a UK newspaper politely informing me that my name had been plucked out of a hat and I was to receive £500.

Despite having no recollection of entering the competition (the newspaper in question is actually a hateful affair I wouldn’t be seen dead buying), I was happy to take their money and when the cheque arrived in the post it was duly spent (very quickly, I recall).

Worth a shot then. “Ooh, great. How do I claim my Dh200,000?”

“Yes. What is your good name, sir?”

Hmm. “Do you not have my name? Isn’t it on the system along with my number?”

“Er, ah.” And with that, my man from “du company” promptly hung up.

Really? Was that it? Did he not have a prepared spiel to rattle off should he be presented with a basic question? Apparently not. I was a little disappointed that I hadn’t kept the conversation going to see just how farcical it might have got. Would he have asked me to send him some money that was needed to make the transfer? Perhaps he would have asked for my account details to deposit my winnings. Who knows?

In any case, it turns out that several of my friends have had similar experiences, each one as rubbish as the last. I can’t imagine anyone has been duped.

Despite the illegal intentions, it’s amusing that in this age of sophisticated phishing scams and online identity theft, there are still people out there calling random numbers and hoping nobody asks any questions.

aritman@thenational.ae


twitter Follow us @LifeNationalUAE

Follow us on Facebook for discussions, entertainment, reviews, wellness and news.