Sergent  Nouf Al,Harmoodi-1674887251059
Sergeant Nouf Al,Harmoodi, Information Technology expert with Sharjah Police, urges residents not to hesitate to report cases of cyber blackmail Image Credit: Supplied

Sharjah: A child is hooked on to video game. He meets a stranger online, who asks him to send him photos in return for money so he can get higher scores in the game. After receiving the photos, the stranger started to blackmail him.

An eight-year-old child meets a stranger online, who gets hold of his personal photographs. The criminal then asks the child to provide him with bank details of his parents. The suspect threatens the victim that unless a sum of money is paid, they will expose the photos on the web. The father prudently reported the incident to the police.

Sharjah Police have urged residents to report cases of cyberblackmail and assured that such cases are handled with full confidentiality.

Sophisticated crimes

Cyber criminals are becoming more sophisticated and using official establishments and well-known brands to entrap unsuspecting victims.

Sergent Nouf Al, Harmoodi, information technology expert with Sharjah Police, told Gulf News one of the most common forms of cyber crime is phishing, where people open attachments from unofficial sources or click on unknown links.

The scheme involved bogus messages that asked people to pay fees in order to get their card, or service, answer questions or forward the messages to friends to be in with a chance of winning a prize. Phishing and ransomware attacks have been on the rise, she said

“People need to double-check the URL, which is the address of the online source, because criminals tend to change one letter here or there in the URL. Avoid clicking any links you receive in emails before double-checking they are legitimate and from genuine sources.”

She said people who click on a phishing link and receive messages about money being withdrawn from their accounts should immediately contact their banks to block the payments,” she added.

“If they didn’t become aware of the scam sooner, it will be harder to recover the money,” said Sgt Alharmoudi. These crimes 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,” she said

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Daily accounts blocking

An average of 30 suspicious accounts and six accounts related to cybercrime blackmail are being closed on a daily basis, either by police CID or via telecommunication authorities, in cooperation with police.

During weekends, Sharjah police dealt with at least 10 reports of cybercrime, she said

Sgt Alharmoudi said “When the email reaches me, I first see the address, then I ask myself if I have it, there are contact numbers with [this company] --- where is it?- the number of the shipment, where is it — the awareness aspect is very important.”

There is a [report ]option — click on it — then the domain will classify it through artificial intelligence.

Purchasing sites

She warned community members from purchasing sites. She explained that the fraudster is outside the country and post a product for sale as if he is inside the country as he use fake official cards. The fraudster was inside the country opened a bank account inside the country then left the country and deluded his victims that he was in the country. The amounts are transferred with the commission to the account of the fraudster.

How to monitor children

Sgt Alharmoudi urged parents to monitor their children’s behaviour over using of smart devices. They were especially warned not to circulate their personal information and photos via social media so that they don’t become easy prey to criminals. She also advised parents not to allow their children to speak to strangers online.

Sgt Alharmoudi said preventing cybercrimes starts with the safe and proper usage of the internet. Due to the alarming rise of cybercrimes and blackmailing cases, Sharjah Police recently launched an awareness campaign to prevent the public — particularly schools and university students — from falling victim to online fraud.

Secure smart devices

Sgt Alharmoud said to secure your smart devices. You must link your device to trusted email or icloud, activate two steps verification, create strong and complicated password, use face ID, activate authentication program, connect email with phone number for easy backup and never use one password for all accounts and emails.

New crimes

Sgt Alharmoud said they face many challenges while handling new crimes. “Our department continuously work to find solutions to new crimes. We also follow electronic intrusions and the electronic games.”

“We have more difficulty while handling cyber threats facing children who open an account on social networking sites, put an age older than their age. The awareness aspect is important to develop this thing through courses and to avoid falling prey to fraudsters. We need awareness of parents in monitoring their children,” she noted.

About children games, she explained that children had fallen victims in game that have chatting options with microphone and camera.

The best thing parents can do is to use parental control and remotely follow the activities of their children online.

Cybercrime law

Cybercrime or fraud is punishable by Federal Law No. 5 of 2012 on information technology crimes and specifically in Article 11, thereof, which states that the suspect is to be punished with imprisonment for not less than one year and a fine of not less than Dh250,000 and not more than Dh1 million or both.

How to report cycber crime in Sharjah

* Call 06-5943446 or 06-5943228

* Fax 06-5616096

* Whatsapp +971559992158


Residents should avoid these traps

* Scammers often use fake accounts of celebrities on social media platforms.

* Snapchat topped apps in blackmail cases.

* Free video games like PUBG and Fortnite (children under 15 fall victims in such cases).

* Magicians who claim ability to solve family disputes or bring a lover.

* Dubious money sites and accounts.

* Exchange of bank account details among friends.

* Fake bank SMS.