x Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 18 January 2018

Messaging scams hit mobile users

Police issue fresh warnings to the public about SMS and mobile phone call fraud after a recent flurry of complaints.

ABU DHABI // Police have issued fresh warnings to the public about SMS and mobile phone call fraud after a recent flurry of complaints. An aggressive education campaign earlier this year led to a temporary decline in the number of reported cases, but they are on the rise again. Police said that they had recently received 18 accusations of text message and phone call fraud.

The victims, including Arab and Asian nationals, had been conned out of amounts ranging from Dh2,500 (US$680) to Dh95,000. Typically, they were told that they had won a valuable prize but had to send money to claim it. "We are warning mobile phone users to take precautions and exercise vigilance and not to engage at all with such text messages," said Col Maktoum al Sharifi, the head of Abu Dhabi CID.

Usually the culprits "will be captured sooner or later", he added. In one case, a victim reported losing money as a result of a text message con that told him he had won a cash award, but had to send money first before claiming it. "The police department received a few days ago a complaint from an Arab national claiming he fell victim to such a crime through a text message he received on his mobile phone," said Major Taher al Dhaheri, the head of the unit's organised crime division.

"The message said there was a monetary award that could be claimed by sending Dh2,000 worth of pre-paid phone card pin codes through text message. The victim obliged, only to discover soon after that the phone number of the con artist had been switched off, making further communication impossible." Major al Dhaheri added that the incident came after there had been a decline in this type of fraud following an educational campaign through media outlets warning mobile phone users of the ploy.

He urged the public to report all such incidents. "It is imperative that people report these crimes to us immediately, and not to be so naive as to fall for such cons," he said. Police also urged families to educate their children and protect them against the dangers of using new technology, to keep a closer eye on what they're being exposed to and keep them safe. relass@thenational.ae