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.
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 This time, the cash was withdrawn from his credit card.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.