x Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 22 January 2018

Mobile-phone prize fraud traps 18

Users duped into sending phone credits and money in return for promised prizes ranging from Land Rovers to millions of dirhams.

Abu Dhabi // At least 18 people have been defrauded over the past two months by criminals misleading them into thinking they have won a prize, Abu Dhabi Police revealed. Officials believe the actual number of victims could be much higher because many do not report cases of fraud. Police yesterday called on the public to report cases immediately. According to the police statement, victims have been defrauded of sums of between Dh2,500 (US$680) and Dh7,000 in recent weeks.

The scam artists claim to have official positions when they contact people to tell them they have won a prize. Rashid Burashid, head of the CID's organised crime department, cited as an example an Asian expatriate called by a person speaking an Asian language. The caller claimed to be a marketing manager and said the recipient had won Dh200,000. To get the prize money, the victim was told to send a sum of money in mobile phone credits. As soon as the victim complied, the caller's mobile phone was disconnected.

The fraudsters make money by reselling the mobile phone card codes they receive at less than the market rate. Mr Burashid said the frauds mainly targeted Asian expatriates and there had recently been an increase in the number of cases. The scam detailed by police yesterday is just one of several targeting mobile-phone users in the country. As reported by The National, SMS text messages promising prizes have been sent to fool people into sending money or revealing bank details and other personal information.

Some individuals, for example, received text messages telling them they had won a Toyota Land Cruiser. The supposed winners were then asked to send thousands of dirhams in "shipping costs" and to disclose their personal details, passport number, address, e-mail address and place of work. E-mail users in the UAE are also regularly targeted by fraudsters who send notes telling them they have won as much as several million dollars in prize money.

Other scams involve people who claim to have a large sum of money, such as an inheritance, and offer potential victims a share of the cash for helping them "transfer" it out of their country. dbardsley@thenational.ae