A joint initiative between the banking sector and police departments aims to educate and protect consumers from financial cybercrime and fraud, particularly in the light of the increased use of digital banking services during the COVID-19 pandemic. Image Credit: Agency

Dubai: UAE Banks Federation (UBF), the Central Bank of the UAE (CBUAE), Abu Dhabi Police and Dubai Police have launched the UAE’s first national fraud awareness campaign. The initiative aims to educate and protect consumers from financial cybercrime, particularly in light of the increased use of digital banking services during the COVID-19 pandemic.

As digital solutions disrupt the banking industry, fraudsters have become increasingly sophisticated, resulting in a surge in the number of cases of fraud. Unfortunately, the UAE is no exception to this trend. In 2018, there was a year-on-year increase of 18.2 per cent in fraud cases, and increased again in 2019.

Abdulhamid Saeed

“As digital banking transactions are witnessing a significant spike, we at Central Bank of the UAE have been quick to deploy robust fraud prevention measures to protect consumers. Today’s announcement further validates this commitment,” said Abdulhamid Saeed, Governor of Central Bank of the UAE.

Globally, fraud and cybercrime are expected to rise further. And with millions of people mandated to stay at home, COVID-19 related fraud is also expected to climb as fraudsters exploit people’s anxiety during these difficult times.

Common scams

These target victims via email, SMS, phone and social media, with fraudsters posing as genuine organizations, including government entities, banks, and healthcare providers to trick victims into disclosing personal or financial information. The CBUAE has urged the public to be wary of potential fraudulent activities using its name and warns that there will be a rise in these types of scams during the outbreak.

AbdulAziz Al Ghurair

To counter this and encourage people to remain vigilant, the national fraud awareness campaign will be rolled out across social and traditional media channels with the support of the UBF Fraud Prevention Committee and UBF’s 53 member banks. Under the theme #TogetherAgainstFraud, content will include educational videos and articles that will raise awareness on how to identify scams and avoid them.

As part of the campaign’s efforts to help banks and authorities further combat fraud, UBF has launched a micro-website where customers can report fraudulent activity.

“We not only aim to equip the public with the knowledge and resources they need to protect themselves from fraud, but also disrupt criminal networks that are targeting UAE residents. This can only be achieved if we work together,” said AbdulAziz Al Ghurair, Chairman of UAE Banks Federation.

Collaborative efforts

Lieutenant General Abdullah Khalifa Al Marri

The national fraud awareness campaign will run until the end of the year, focusing on different topics every month. These include SIM swap fraud, phishing, vishing, lottery scams, vanishing ink scams, card skimming, email redirection fraud, and data privacy.

“One of our strategic goals is to reduce fraud across the country This initiative underpins our will and readiness to tackle fraud and cybercrime, and strengthen our collaborative efforts alongside our partners to combat this threat to society,” said Lieutenant General Abdullah Khalifa Al Marri of Dubai Police,

Major General Maktoum Ali Al Sharifi

“The fight against fraud can only be won if we work together. I am confident that through this #TogetherAgainstFraud campaign, we can significantly reduce the number of fraud cases across the country.” Major General Maktoum Ali Al Sharifi, Director-General of Abu Dhabi Police.

During 2019 to February this year, Abu Dhabi Police arrested 13 criminal gangs made up of 142 fraudsters involved in vishing attacks. The fraudsters were posing as bank employees and asking customers to disclose their bank details to steal their money.