Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 22 July 2019

Crime ring: we all have a part to play in fighting phone scammers

New reports reveal that many of us are shockingly lax when it comes to data security

The best protetction against mobile phone scams is our own vigilance. Alamy
The best protetction against mobile phone scams is our own vigilance. Alamy

With phone scams on the rise, Abu Dhabi police are urging the public to be vigilant. Just this month, a joint police operation arrested 24 members of an organised ring in Ajman. The gang cold-called unsuspecting people, promising bogus rewards and then cheating them out of their hard-earned money. Authorities are working hard to combat these activities, but the best protection any of us can have against such fraudsters is our own caution.

A recent report by the UK’s National Cyber Security Centre found that 23.2 million hacked accounts worldwide used “123456” as their password. Using predictable combinations of letters and numbers makes our data easy prey for conmen. In light of this, experts encourage users to be more rigorous in protecting their personal information. “Using hard-to-guess passwords is a strong first step,” says Dr Ian Levy, the NCSC’s technical director. “We recommend combining three random but memorable words.”

The best protection any of us can have against fraudsters is our own caution

Another way to avoid falling victim to scammers is to watch out for unsolicited texts and phone calls asking for your financial details. If you suspect a bogus prize scam, it is always useful to remember that you cannot win a competition that you have not entered. In the early days of the internet, swindlers routinely pretended to be Nigerian princes graciously donating their fortune to strangers. This type of hoax is easy to expose, but since then, conmen have grown more sophisticated. Last December, the UAE Central Bank warned customers about fraudulent WhatsApp messages using its logo, claiming that people’s ATM cards had been blocked and needed updating. The fraudsters included a link to a malicious website for the supposed update. Reputable companies will never ask for sensitive information by phone or message.

Residents of the UAE are lucky to live in a nation where crime rates are extremely low. But online and telephone scams – which cross borders and are difficult to take action against – are as much of a threat here as anywhere else. Fortunately, police are cracking down on schemes designed to cheat hard-working people. However, the global and anonymised nature of this threat means that we all have a part to play in looking after ourselves and educating vulnerable people around us.

Updated: April 21, 2019 06:31 PM

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