Dubai: One phone call was all it took for her bank account and credit cards to be wiped out clean.
Michelline Reyes Viernes, a nurse working in Sharjah, woke up to a call after her shift one September evening to a caller who gave her incredible news.
“He called me to say that I had won Dh500,000 and he was going to wire the money to my NBAD account. He read aloud my bank account details and asked me to confirm. I was surprised that he knew my account so I thought that maybe he is really from the bank,” Viernes told Gulf News.
The caller also asked for her date of birth. Unbeknown to Viernes, the man was at that point making an online account for her to steal her money.
“While we were on the phone, I had a feeling that something was amiss. I received a series of SMSes in my mobile that my money had been debited from my account and withdrawals were made from my credit cards so I immediately called the call centre of NBAD on our landline to block my account.”
But it was too late. By then, the fraudster had amassed Dh22,450, including her salary, and cash withdrawals from her two credit cards.
Telecom companies du and Etisalat have, over the years, warned people of fraudsters claiming to be telecom staff and tricking people that they had won in raffles. The modus operandi remains the same, only the methods and the words slightly differ.
... how did they know my bank account number? I never had an online account. The fraudsters were able to make an online account so they could steal all my money.”
- Michelline Viernes | Filipina nurse
According to Viernes’ complaint filed with Sharjah Police, her money was siphoned off her account and converted into phone credit balances transferred directly to eight mobile numbers. She said she tried to trace the individuals who owned the mobile numbers but to no avail.
Viernes also reported the fraud to her bank, NBAD, which is now First Abu Dhabi Bank (FAB). She said a bank official told her that based on their investigation, the transaction had been proven as fraudulent and is now with the department concerned.
“My only question is how did they know my bank account number? I never had an online account. The fraudsters were able to make an online account so they could steal all my money. And whenever I would follow up with NBAD, no one is able to help me,” she said.
When contacted by Gulf News, First Abu Dhabi Bank said in a statement: “Ms Viernes contacted the bank about the matter, and was informed by our customer service team to file a case with the police. Once FAB receives an official letter about the investigation, the bank will answer any enquiries from the police, who will continue to communicate with the customer directly.
“If customers have insurance on their account or facilities, they should file a claim via the bank’s call centre or branch, however in cases where the customer has shared their details with another party, FAB cannot provide a refund, as per bank policy.”
Viernes said she has been running from pillar to post since September and has not gotten back even a single dirham of her money. Her boss, colleagues and some friends were kind enough to lend her some money to support her three kids. But she continues to pay for the credit card dues until now.
“I am paying for money withdrawn from my credit card that I never even used. Yes, I might have committed a small error, but it’s such a high price to pay. I am going public with my story now so hopefully no one else will suffer from what I am going through.
“I’m desperate. I have three kids to support. I am pleading with everyone, with authorities, please help me get back the money stolen from me.”