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How this man’s life went for a toss with his wallet

Humble watch technician narrates his ordeal after scamsters steal his identity and cards

Image Credit: Shafaat Shahbandari/Gulf News
Mohammad Farooq clutches a bunch of documents that prove the theft and the amount ofmoney he has lost.
Gulf News

Dubai: He lost his wallet during a trip to Muhaisnah in Dubai in August and with it his identity and sleep for the next four months.

In the intervening night of August 4 and 5, earlier this year, Mohammad Farooq, a watch technician, woke up to an SMS on his mobile, notifying him on the withdrawal of cash from his credit card.

The Sri Lankan national had just gone to bed at his accommodation in Satwa after his weekend grocery shopping, when he received a series of SMS notifications from his bank for a total withdrawal of around Dh19,000 from his debit and credit cards.

The documents seen by Gulf News show all the withdrawals took place within a span of a few minutes.

Unable to understand what was happening, Farooq looked for his wallet in his trouser and was shocked to find it missing. By the time he could lodge a complaint and get his cards blocked, a significant damage had been done.

According to Farooq, he visited a market in Muhaisnah labour accommodation area around 7pm that day. That was where, Farooq suspects, his wallet was nicked.

The expat who has been in the country since 1991 says the pickpocket waited till midnight to begin using the cards.

“The trip I usually take every week to save a few dirhams has cost me thousands of dirhams, given sleepless nights and has been a source of stress which I had never known before. My life changed for the worse in minutes and my only mistake was keeping the ATM pin number in my wallet,” said Farooq, who has learnt the hard way what not to carry in a wallet.

The 58-year-old’s ordeal didn’t end at the loss of a Dh1,000 in cash and the credit card withdrawals. The morning of August 5 brought him more woes, as he received messages from telecom providers notifying the purchase of five post-paid SIM cards and a smartphone worth Dh3,500.

“When I received the messages from banks, I immediately got the cards blocked to limit the damage. But I never imagined someone will go to such lengths to rip me off. I couldn’t believe my eyes when I saw the messages next morning and since then I have been running around convincing different entities to prove the theft of my identity,” said Farooq, struggling to hold back his tears as he narrated his ordeal.

Though he has only his ignorance and bad luck to blame for his losses, but what he had gone through in the following months is not something he had imagined of the city he has called home for 27 years.

“I have lived here half of my life and I never imagined someone would steal my wallet in this city and when that happened, I never thought it would be so difficult to prove that someone else is using my identity. It’s been more than four months since the theft happened and I have lodged complaints with police, TRA (Telecommunications Regulatory Authority), banks, courts, but so far nothing has happened,” added Farooq.

Along with his wallet, which contained Dh1,000 in cash, Farooq lost his Emirates ID, driving licence, vehicle registration card, a freezone access card, two debit cards and four credit cards with a total value of more than 50,000, most of it unused.

After running from pillar to post to convince the banks that it was not him who withdrew the cash, Farooq was forced to pay around Dh19,000 including interest and charges, which he arranged through a loan from his employer.

“I tried my best to prove my innocence, they have CCTV footage and they knew it wasn’t me, but they didn’t listen to my pleas. I was left with no choice, so I went to my manager and begged for the loan and my company was kind enough to oblige. I am now paying Dh1,500 per month to repay the loan,” said Farooq, who is now losing a major of his monthly earnings in repayments.

However, following his persistent efforts and complaints with the TRA, things seem to be moving in the right direction at least with one of the telecom operators.

“I have received an SMS now from one of the telecom providers that my complaints are being addressed and the matter will be sorted out. I hope they will waive the dues which someone else has accrued using my ID,” said Farooq with a glint of hope in his eyes.

In addition to the credit card and SIM card losses, Farooq also had to spend around Dh2,000 reapplying for all documents he lost, including the Emirates ID, freezone access card and others.

Just a couple of years away from his retirement, the father of a teenage son, hopes he will get justice and the system will excuse his one blunder for his nearly three decades of service.