Abu Dhabi: There has been a spike in unlicensed ads on social media and email asking residents to wire money to schemes promising quick profits. Unfortunately these unsolicited and unregulated offers have claimed a number of victims who have lost their money after wiring or electronically sending the cash. The cyber-criminals simply vanish after the amount is transferred.
Last week, after recording a rise in such scams, the Abu Dhabi Public Prosecution sent out an alert urging residents not to be tempted by such get-rich-quick frauds. It also warned that these crimes are punishable by a prison sentence of at least one year and a fine of at least Dh250,000 and at most Dh1 million, or one of these two sentences.
Victims and experts told Gulf News there are several measures residents can take to stay safe from wire fraud.
For starters, Public Prosecution has urged community members to ensure that the entities they are being approached by have the necessary licenses issued by the relevant authorities in the country to conduct financial activities.
Lawyer Ali Khalaf Al Hosani from Ali Khalaf Al Hosani Advocates and Legal Consultant told Gulf News: “The most dangerous result of technological development is the emergence of cybercrime, where electronic technology is used such as computers, mobile phones, internet and social media.”
He added that these crimes include extortion, forging credit cards, withdrawing balances from bank accounts, hacking mobile phones and networks with the intent of embezzlement and fraud. Victims of cybercrime vary from individuals to companies, institutions, and even governments.
About the attraction of such ads, Al Hosani said: “There are many financial temptations, but they are all lies aimed at luring the victim into the trap of fraud. Among these temptations are promises of large financial rewards and investment opportunities with large returns and financial profits.”
He gave a real example of a perplexing case.
“Practically, a strange case was presented to us at Ali Khalaf Al Hosani Advocates & Legal Consultant some time ago, indicating the ability of electronic fraud gangs to move very fast and accurately to obtain information. We investigated a complaint in which the chief accountant of a well-known commercial company operating in the UAE was the victim, and he had to transfer a sum of money worth Dh200,000 through the company’s account in the bank to the account of a client of this company in another bank,” he added.
“However, on the same day, this accountant received an email signed, stamped and certified by the client, asking him to transfer the amount to a different account in another bank. Based on this email from the alleged customer, the accountant transferred the amount in two instalments to the new bank account. He was surprised by a phone call from the real client company, saying that they did not receive any bank transfers, and confirming that they did not change their account, and did not send any email in this regard, and that they have nothing to do with the new account.”
After the investigation, it was found that the amount was transferred to a fictitious account managed by a gang impersonating the identity and description of the client, and that it was very quickly able to carry out the two transfers and receive the amount.
The investigation revealed that a gang had managed this operation to defraud the two companies by forging electronic documents, then they seized the amount and fled the country, Al Hosani said.
They lawyer assured that the UAE government is keen on educating the public and has prepared awareness programmes that include all nationalities in their various languages, to familiarise them with the procedures to protect themselves from fraud such as telephone, electronic, social media and computerised scams.
Qassem Suleiman Al Ameri, an investor in cryptocurrency, shared his own experience of becoming a victim.
“At the beginning of 2022, when the cryptocurrency market was high, I subscribed to a well-known channel on Telegram and it had a large number of followers, so I was completely confident in the team working on this platform, because they were strong analysts and experts in the currency market,” he said.
“At the same time, they sent a promotional message for currency, and the message was full of persuasive words for a new cryptocurrency project, from which the investor would get a lot of money in a short time. When I read the message, I did not know that it was a big trap for subscribers, so I got excited and transferred a lot of money in order to buy the currency because I trusted the team that ran that platform.”
Al Ameri added: “When I bought, my account balance quickly increased from the first minute, and then the balance went down rapidly. I was watching the buying and selling indicator, but I did not believe it, and then I did not withdraw because we know that some large investors spread fear to drive small investors out of the market.
“I waited until the account balance turned to zero. I was very sad about the loss of my money, but I was sadder about the people who sold what they had in order to get the opportunity to double their wealth.
“I contacted this deceptive platform, but I did not receive any response from them. Months later, they returned to the scenario again, but with another coin.”
Al Ameri said: “I advise everyone not to enter the electronic currency market unless he or she is an expert or fully knowledgeable and knows how to analyse the market movements. I also advise investors to follow up and watch videos or join some short courses on cryptocurrency markets, and it is necessary to obtain information about portfolio management, the platform, and the risks of entering the market.
“I want to say that real analysts never guarantee you full profit because they know that the market is unstable at any moment.”
Victim of a hacker
Ibrahim Al Thahli, an Emirati, said: “From time to time, the Public Prosecution warns members of the community against falling victim to electronic fraud because of the drift behind new methods of fraud with the aim of seizing money through fraud by luring the victim and promoting quick profit and obtaining attractive financial returns and valuable prizes contrary to the truth.”
He added: “Swindlers use innovative methods to do so through misleading advertisements using the information network or one of the information technology means, including sending electronic messages or email to their victims.”
About his experience with electronic scam, Al Thahli said: “I personally fell victim to such crimes when I was travelling to a European country, and I received an advertising message with an electronic link about a new advertisement. Because I am an investor, I opened the electronic link. Immediately my mobile was hacked and all personal information, numbers, electronic accounts, and emails were stolen from my phone.”
He advised people to not trust any electronic message or email that offers you a way to get rich quick, or asks for money transfer or personal information such as ID number, date of birth, or bank card secret numbers. “If you receive a suspicious message or a strange email asking you to send your personal information, immediately contact the official security authorities and file a report against the sender of the message, whether he is unknown or known.”