DUBAI If a stranger stops you on the road asking for directions before swirling a dollar bill in front of your eyes and pleads with you to show him what a dirham looks like, be on guard immediately for it could spell trouble.
But for Shaheen Alam, 28, there was no such prior warning. The Dubai resident says he was ‘hypnotised’ by a man outside his bank in Media City on October 23 into handing over a third of the Dh73,550 he had just withdrawn from his company account. “It was as if the man had cast a spell on me and I, like a robot, ended up doing all that he gestured to me to do, including handing over my cash to him,” says the Bangladeshi who has reported the incident to the police.
“He pulled up in a white sedan right in front of me while I was waiting for a cab. The time was about 1pm. He initiated the conversation by saying that he had come from Saudi Arabia and was looking for an exchange house nearby. The façade looked so genuine with a burqa-clad woman and a young boy in the rear seat,” recalls Alam. “The man, clad in a light coloured shirt and trousers, came out of the car, pleading to see what a UAE dirham looks like while slowly moving a dollar note in circles in front of my eyes. Unsuspecting, I took out a Dh20 note and handed it over to him.”
Thinking of what happened next though, says Alam, still gives him the chill. “Just as I was about to take back my note, he held and kiss my hand and started chanting some weird lines. Then he insisted I must trust him as he was acting in good faith and made gestures that I hand over the envelope I was carrying. I knew I was falling into some kind of trap but I had no strength to resist. Soon I ended up handing the money to the man,” says Alam, adding he even saw the man and woman together count the load of cash in the car right in front of him.
It was only after a few minutes that he realised what had happened and made a knee-jerk dash for the envelope. “I couldn’t even note down the car’s registration number as the man sped off and when I reached office to count the money, to my horror, I was short of Dh25,700,” says Alam, an accountant at a training management firm. He has since repaid the money to his employer by borrowing the sum from friends.