Dubai: Indian expats have been warned against scamsters extorting money by calling them in the guise of Dubai immigration officials.
The warning from the Indian Consulate in Dubai comes after Gulf News alerted the mission about various cases where Indians have been duped in the new scam.
Several Indian expats in the UAE have been swindled of thousands of dirhams in the scam where fraudsters call them from the numbers of General Directorate of Residency and Foreigners Affairs (GDRFA) in Dubai, which was previously known as Department of Naturalisation and Residency Dubai (DNRD).
A Gulf News investigation found out that the scamsters have been spoofing either the landline number of GDRFA call centre 043139999 or its toll free number 8005111 that appears on the victims’ phones as +971800511.
Victims, who spoke to this newspaper on condition of anonymity because their details are with the criminals, said they were made to believe that the callers are officials from the DNRD as they could verify these phone numbers from the website of GDRFA www.dnrd.ae
An Indian woman, who was duped to send Dh1,800 in December, said the whole episode of the call reminded her of an American horror thriller Don’t Hang Up.
“I watched the movie only after I got pranked. I could relate to it so well. They terrorise and threaten us to make us believe that we have actually committed some offence,” she said.
Since she had just renewed her passport a couple of days before the incident, the woman suspected her details were leaked at that time.
However, officials from the BLS International, which process Indian passport applications, have refuted this and said the data is secured and treated as confidential in their system.
“The details in our system cannot be retrieved without the approval from the higher management. Please note that all applications are submitted to the Indian Mission office [consulate] in a secured manner the next day,” BLS replied to her, asking her to approach the authorities for investigation.
Many victims and those who did not fall for the prank have shared their experiences on some online forums.
Only some victims have filed police cases. However, there has been no reported arrest in such cases so far.
Some victims said the money wired by them was withdrawn in India, indicating that gang members are operating both in India and the UAE.
An official from the Indian consulate in Dubai warned Indian expats against such scams.
“Some scamsters are calling people to cheat and they are demanding money from them. We have also received two complaints from Indian nationals regarding this,” said Prem Chand, consul (passport, attestation, community affairs and welfare).
The official clarified that no Indian authority will directly call any Indian national on pending cases against him/her.
“They would send the formal notice through proper official channels.”
He also urged Indian expats not to share their personal details on public platforms and social media and advised caution when people have to share their personal details, especially related to vital documents with anyone.
“Nobody should share such details unless they are confident that the data won’t be compromised. People need to be cautious when they provide their details even for raffles and free offers,” he said.
Modus operandi of scamsters
The scamsters posing as Dubai immigration officials have been spoofing either the landline number of GDRFA call centre 043139999 or its toll free number 8005111 that appears on the victims’ phones as +971800511.
Victims are made to believe that the callers are officials from the General Directorate of Residency and Foreigners Affairs (GDRFA) in Dubai — previously known as Department of Naturalisation and Residency Dubai (DNRD) — as they can verify these phone numbers from the website of GDRFA www.dnrd.ae
The modus operandi of these scamsters is to threaten the victims by saying that they have either not filed the landing form [which does not exist] when they reached the UAE last time or there are cases filed against them either here or in India.
One Indian woman who received the call said she was even accused of being a terrorist with links to terror organisations.
Once the potential victims seem to be scared with such threats, the next step of the scamsters is to offer them two options.
They are told either to get deported for the offence they committed or fight the case with the assistance of a lawyer for which they are asked to transfer a fee. Since they are terrorised with the threat of police coming to arrest them anytime, most of the people who received the calls have felt so scared that they fell for the offer of legal assistance and wired money through Western Union as demanded by the callers.
Victims have wired cash ranging from Dh1,000 to Dh3,000. Some others, who have shared their experience on online forums, said they were even asked to send up to Dh4,500.