Sharjah: As many as 94 cybercrime cases were recorded in Sharjah this year, according to statistics released by police on Saturday.

“There were 94 cases of electronic crime cases in 2016 and 122 suspects arrested in these cases,” said Colonel Ebrahim Al Ajel, director of the Criminal and Investigation Department.

A total of 214 cases were registered and 239 suspects were taken into custody since 2015.

The suspects were arrested in the UAE and in foreign countries as the police tracked them down and brought them to justice.

Most of the cases were of sexual and financial blackmail, cheating companies and establishments, phone scams, extortion and defamation.

In one such case, a man posed as a woman to chat with his victims and made Dh100,000 in two years. He was tracked down and arrested.

Col Al Ajel said these crimes are common because they are easy to commit from anywhere in the world.

“Most internet users don’t take security measures to protect their accounts, something that leaves them vulnerable to exploitation,” Col Al Ajel said. For investigators, electronic fraud is one of the most difficult crimes due to the difficulty of identifying the crime scene and sealing the instruments of the crime, especially if the offender carried out his fraud from outside the UAE.

“But what matters is how we handle them. We work with international organisations to fight all kinds of internet crimes.” he said.

Col Al Ajel said recently some suspects used new methods of cheating companies and stole their money by hacking into their email accounts. They made simple changes in the accounts by adding a letter or a number and sent emails to the company’s clients, informing them that the company had changed its account and asking them to transfer money to a new account. Such crimes are difficult to be traced but the Ministry of the Interior and Sharjah Police have worked jointly to nab the suspects.

Sharjah Police’s online patrols are operating round-the-clock to monitor cyber crimes and nab people who misuse social media and blackmail victims. The police have closed a number of suspicious accounts and sites and arrested their owners in cooperation with the telecommunication authority.

Col Al Ajel urged people to be careful when dealing with strangers online and to never exchange personal information.

He urged the public to report any suspicious activity immediately to the police.

Cybercrime or fraud is punishable under federal law No 5 of 2012 on information technology crimes and specifically in article 11 thereof, which states that the suspect will be punished with imprisonment of not less than one year and/or a fine of not less than Dh250,000 and not more than Dh1 million.