Dubai: An accountant squandered Dh13,000 of his personal savings to recharge scamsters, becoming the latest victim of phone credit racketeers dangling a get-rich-quick ruse to snag victims.
It started innocently enough when Mohammad H., a 28-year-old Indian, received a call in May, on a new SIM card that came with his new iPhone 5.
The trickster who claimed to be an etisalat staff told him about a Dh500,000 prize he had won in a ‘phone number raffle’.
“The guy on the other line correctly recited all the numbers on the back of my SIM card. He sent me a message using the ‘etisalatINF’ line. His phone ringback tone was also from etisalat,” said Mohammad.
To claim his prize money, Mohammad was initially asked to pay Dh1,500 in “processing fees”. “He called me ‘brother’,” said Mohammad, who bought the recharge cards from Carrefour’s Al Ghubaiba branch.
“I kept thinking about the Dh500,000 prize money, but had no immediate plans on where to use it. The only thing I had in mind was to complete the formalities to claim the prize.”
But demands from the conman kept piling up.
Since the SIM card had a 18-digit number, the conman asked him to send Dh200 worth of phone credit for each digit before they could “process” the prize money through a local bank. At one point, the conman asked him to send Dh3,500 worth of call credits as “government fees”.
For about six hours, Mohammad said he was hooked on the phone with several of the gang members, who advised him not to talk to anybody until the “process” was completed.
“There were several people talking to me on the phone at different moments,” he said. “It’s as if they are in an office environment. They were talking to other people as well.”
One of Mohammad’s colleagues tried to stop him, but he dismissed him. At one point, Mohammad even called the etisalat call centre and a staff warned him about the recharge scam. “I just ignored the warnings. The guys at the other end assured me: “ ‘My friend, if you don’t want the prize money, we will cancel your process. You’re in the UAE. In this country, you cannot defraud anyone.’
When evening came, he had realised his folly and walked up to Al Rifaa police station, where an officer took details and phone numbers involved in the racket.