x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 25 July 2017

Credit card alerts warn of fraudsters

Campaign aims to educates Emiratis travelling abroad to dangers of having their information stolen and of leaving themselves vulnerable to online criminals.

DUBAI // To the thousands of people who will be travelling abroad this summer, the police have a message: watch your credit cards. As part of a new campaign against credit-card fraud, they are advising people about the best ways to protect themselves from thieves, particularly when overseas.

They are reminding people that stolen credit card information can be used to make unauthorised purchases or to create fake cards. They will use text messaging, information counters at banks and shopping centres and a website to highlight risky banking and security practices. The campaign is also aimed at alerting retail staff, businesses and banks to potential problems. Police say people from the UAE are being increasingly targeted by organised criminal networks while on holiday. Last month, Jonathan Campbell-James, HSBC's regional head of security and fraud risk, also said the bank had experienced a "notable" jump in credit card fraud in the first quarter of 2009 compared with the previous year.

Among other things, the police campaign will show credit card holders how they can detect "skimming" technology that criminals use to obtain data from a card's magnetic strip when the owner is using an ATM. "We chose this time of the year to launch this campaign because people are leaving on their holidays and tend to be naive because of the relative security they have here," said Lt Adel Mohammed, the head of Rashidya police station.

The campaign is also seen by police as a chance to open a dialogue with banks to improve general banking security and as a stepping stone to closer co-operation with them. "Many people don't know how to protect their credit card and banking information, by not checking what websites they think they are doing their online banking on, entering credit card details on shared computers and leaving their PINs in their wallets and computers," said Lt Ali Abdul Ghanem, who is in charge of the campaign.

"People who lose their wallets sometimes don't report the incident and cancel the cards immediately, giving criminals ample time to clone their credit cards or steal their identity." Some of the fraud cases police uncovered last year involved hundreds of credit cards, and earlier this year a shipment of 150 cards was seized en route to Asia. Police say the international credit card criminal gangs that target the UAE are mainly based in Eastern European and East Asian countries.

"There is no fear regarding home-grown financial criminals," said Lt Ghanem. "It's about the rest of the world where credit card crime is in the billions of dollars. We just want people from the UAE to have their identity and finances safe when they are abroad." shafez@thenational.ae