XPRESS | News

Chef loses Dh16,500 to SMS lottery con

Soon-to-be-married Sri Lankan burns wedding money in latest episode of phone recharge scam

  • By Jay B. Hilotin, Chief Reporter
  • Published: 21:00 July 3, 2013
  • XPRESS

  • Image Credit: Supplied
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Dubai: A chef burnt his fingers in a pre-paid phone recharge rip-off. In just four hours he lost to an SMS lottery conman the Dh16,500 he had put aside for his wedding.

Sri Lankan Pushan, 27, a five-star hotel chef in Dubai, seemed to have been “hypnotised” into buying numerous phone recharge cards even as his relatives warned him about the scam.

It started early on June 24 when he received an SMS stating he had won Dh200,000 in a lottery organised by local telecom firm du.

The message stated: “Dear Sir, Congratulations. You won 2,00,000AED … money transfer charges 3,500AED apply.”

To make sure the ruse looked real, the conman even emailed Pushan a scan of a Dh200,000 cheque with his name on it. Pushan believed it was real.

“I am preparing for my wedding (on October 25),” Pushan told XPRESS, “and I thought the prize money would help me and my future wife.”

But the scammer wanted more than just the Dh3,500 transfer charges.

give me more

By about 2pm the “transfer charge” was raised to several thousands in du recharge cards, out of which Pushan bought Dh8,000 from Carrefour at the Mall of the Emirates.

“A security guard asked me what I needed it for… I told him it is for personal use,” he said.

A store official got suspicious and prevented him from buying more cards.

Disappointed at not being able to buy more at Carrefour, Pushan went to nearby Lulu supermarket where he bought an additional Dh8,500 worth of cards.

By 4.30pm, he had completed sending the cards and pin numbers worth Dh16,500 to “du” (the name of the conman displayed on his BlackBerry).

Asked what the man’s nationality was, Pushan said: “He called me ‘brother’. From his accent, he sounded like a Pakistani man.”

Meanwhile, some of his relatives and his fiancee were trying in vain to get through to him.

Larine, Pushan’s sister in law, said: “It was impossible to get through to him for more than four hours as he was locked in conversation with this man.”

By the time his relatives found him at Lulu hypermarket at 5pm, he had an additional Dh7,000. This time, the cash was withdrawn from his credit card.

“He was ready to buy more recharge cards. He was so convinced it’s not fraud. It’s as if he’s in a trance.”

It was too late when Pushan realised the con. The next day he filed a complaint with the police and telecom operator du. “He (conman) promised to refund the money immediately,” said Pushan. It’s been a week since he last talked to the conman. He hasn’t heard from him again.

A du spokesperson said fraud calls are common.

“We urge customers not to share any personal information, including SIM card details, PIN and passport numbers, recharge coupon numbers, credit card details etc with unauthorised personnel or on public computer networks,” he said.

Comments (37)

Have you ever been scammed? Tell us about it. Write to us at news@xpress4me.com or sms 5101
  1. Added 13:57 July 4, 2013

    Please read news on the newspaper before serving your pakoras on it.

    MAK, Dubai, United Arab Emirates

  2. Added 13:43 July 4, 2013

    I feel sad with what he would be going through now. I had received similar phone calls on my Etisalat number may be atleast 3 times in last couple of years back. When for the first time I received such a call though I had heard that there was this fraud going on still my inner instinct made me think that I have really won the prize. I consulted immediately with my friends and all of them told me its a scam. I was asked to provide sim serial number so again next time when this person called I denied it and I said keep the prize with yourself. I never received any calls thereafter. I am sure the newly arrived people in this country will be the target of such scammers. Hope the telecom authorities will take this matter seriously and keep a text message or a call randomely making people aware of such scammers.

    Jamil Tekedil, Dubai, United Arab Emirates

  3. Added 13:20 July 4, 2013

    I had a similar incidence. A man was trying to convince me to transfer some balance to his du phone number. I immediately figured out that it was a scam and asked him not to call me again otherwise I will report the matter to police. He did not stop so I called up police to inform them about this scam and this person. To my surprise, the police asked me if I have lost any money or given him any recharge card so far & I said no - then they said, “wallah good, don’t worry then’. no one bothered to register this issue and inquire further to stop this ring from operating. Disappointing indeed!

    Maziya, Sharjah, United Arab Emirates

  4. Added 13:19 July 4, 2013

    Hello, Yes there are so many scams robbing ppl specially new comers and job seekers UAE police should find a solution to end these scams.

    irha, fsd, Pakistan

  5. Added 13:06 July 4, 2013

    This is GREED for money - nothing else. I have cautioned and saved at least two persons (laborers) who would have fallen for such scams. I know of a driver who saved for his daughter's marriage and lost half the money to such scam.

    Ronald, Mumbai - MAHARASHTRA, India

  6. Added 13:04 July 4, 2013

    I have experienced the same scam.. He pretended that he is from etisalat announcing that i am the lucky winner of the global village raffle draw. Before I got the cheque amounting AED500,000/- he said to deposit AED2,500/- using the etisalat card to be sent to him. I gave him almost AED1,500/- and by that time i was asking my best friend to lend me additional cash to complete AED2,500 and then i feel that he is fooling me because the way he is asking for the money in a rude way. That is the time I realized it is a scam..

    JM, Dubai, United Arab Emirates

  7. Added 13:01 July 4, 2013

    I received similar type of call a week back. The voice on the phone sounds same as explained in the article. He said congratulation in a very casual way that I have won AED 200K and said the person is from Etisalat. Before the guy could get through to me I shut the phone saying that he is wasting my time. It is best to not get indulged in phony phone call conversations with strangers. Especially when someone calls you and says you won so much money ! it does not make sense ! common sense should be applied..

    Rizky, Dubai, United Arab Emirates

  8. Added 12:46 July 4, 2013

    This type of scams have been going on since more than 2 years now. This person should have been clever enough to understand immediately. Even the news papers warning very clearly every now and then. It is really pity how come Pushan has not realized it too soon. There shouldn't be any reason anyone simply gets lottery just like that. This is a clear case of stupidity to wash money in this manner. None other than Pushan himself to be blamed in this case.

    SKYLARK, SHARJAH, United Arab Emirates

  9. Added 12:44 July 4, 2013

    The question to be asked - why was this SriLankan man allowed by shops like Lulu to buy such large amounts of recharges? Why cannot Etisalat and DU track such large recharge happening in short span of time - I presume they can apply more stringent ways to nab these culprits!.

    Tony, Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates

  10. Added 12:22 July 4, 2013

    At times, or almost every month, I get calls from Etisalat (a mobile number), first confirming my name, and then telling me that I have won a certain amount of cash in a lucky draw or some free travel tickets to some place. If I dont pick up the call at once, they keep calling again and again, or misscall, and expect you to call back! Recently, it is happening a lot. I get these calls every 2 weeks. Please let me know if there is a way to complain about these calls. Thank you

    Suman Shafi, Dubai, United Arab Emirates

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