x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 25 July 2017

Police seize gang tied to US$62m credit fraud

Three arrested and one suspect wanted in crime linked to September bank warnings, but another crime operation is ongoing.

DUBAI // Three members of a gang that allegedly stole US$62 million (Dh227.73m) in a month after obtaining credit information from thousands of UAE bank customers have been arrested, Dubai Police said last night. An extradition warrant has been sought for a fourth gang member, they said.

The men allegedly obtained sensitive information from 16,975 bank cards by using a false website they created. They then illegally bought millions of dollars worth of goods on the internet. "They stole the credit card numbers and used it to purchase a wide range of goods, which included diamonds and gold from various websites worldwide," said Col Khalil Ibrahim al Mansouri, the deputy chief of Dubai Police's Criminal Investigation Department.

Col al Mansouri said the gang, whose activities were uncovered on July 1, had been operating for a month before police were alerted. The general department of e-services at Dubai Police, set up to tackle electronic crime, monitored the internet and arrested three of the four suspects DAH, WNZ, and MMA. The fourth, identified as BAS, is outside the country but police say a request for his extradition is in process.

Police said the spree was partly responsible for banks sending text messages to tens of thousands of customers in September, warning them to change their personal identification numbers (PINs) on debit and ATM cards. In July about the time the fraud was going on, hints of widespread fraud began emerging in the banking community. In August an official warning was made by the US embassy about the high rates of credit card fraud in the UAE.

The September text messages were also prompted by frauds that occurred after a network holding information on credit and debit cards was infiltrated. Senior bankers say this fraud is still affecting customers. The fraud allegedly committed by the four men held by police did not seem to match that operation. Col al Mansouri called on banks to improve their security systems, and said people should be cautious with their banking details and make sure they are not being watched while using ATMs.

rabubaker@thenational.ae