The Embassy of India building in Abu Dhabi. Image Credit: Embassy of India website

Abu Dhabi: The Indian Embassy in Abu Dhabi has issued a warning against a new scam in which imposters using fake social media handles of the mission are duping Indian expats seeking help, especially for repatriation.

“It has been brought to the notice of the Embassy that some people are cheating innocent Indian nationals by sending messages and collecting money to arrange their travel from the UAE to India through the twitter handle ‘@embassy_help’ and email ID ‘ind_embassy.mea.gov@protonmail.com’,” the embassy said in an advisory.

“All Indian nationals are hereby informed that the Embassy of India, Abu Dhabi has no affiliation whatsoever with the twitter handle ‘@embassy_help’ and email ID ‘ind_embassy.mea.gov@protonmail.com’,” the mission stated.

The embassy said its official email IDs, Twitter handle, Facebook ID, telephone numbers etc. are mentioned on its website https://www.indembassyuae.gov.in/.

“It is advised to cross check particulars of e-mail IDs and social media accounts of the Embassy from our website to avoid falling into the trap of unscrupulous elements. Kindly note that email IDs of all Indian Missions/Posts always end with the domain @mea.gov.in,” the embassy added.

embassy_help fake twitter page
The Indian Embassy in Abu Dhabi has warned expats not to be duped by fraudsters using the Twitter ID “embassy_help”. Image Credit: Twitter

The embassy is also in the process of contacting local authorities to take further action on the issue.

The fake Twitter ID @embassy_help carries the profile name “Support Embassy” and carries the profile description as “Need help? Here to help your Concerns,Problems and Queries 24/7”.

It uses the image of the Indian tricolour with the caption celebrating 70 years of freedom as the profile photo and carries a combo picture including the images of the ndian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Minister of External Affair Dr S Jaishankar.

The handle frequently retweeted posts by Modi and Indian ministers, presumably in an attempt to look genuine.

However, the tweets from the handle have been protected after the embassy issued the alert.

Speaking to Gulf News, an embassy spokesperson said there have been several complaints about the fraudsters misusing the embassy’s name through social media.

“Currently, there are three cases that we are dealing with,” the official said.

“Apart from that, there are several complaints and enquiries about this and we are apprehensive about more people falling prey to it,” she said.

Some affected companies have also filed cases against Indian expat employees after fraudsters posing as embassy officials shared derogatory posts using fake IDs of those employees, Embassy officials told Gulf News. Officials said that some expats have lost jobs while some others have got cases registered against them by their own companies after fraudsters, who took the former’s details, shared derogatory posts about companies/managers using fake IDs of the employees, embassy officials have revealed.

Modus Operandi

Explaining the modus operandi of the scamsters, an official said, the fraudsters contact Indians seeking help by tweeting their issues to ministers or missions. Particularly, workers seeking help for repatriation are being targetted.

“These fraudsters target those people who tag the ministry or the ministers or the missions to seek help for repatriation. They say they will ensure help from the embassy and ask for the email IDs on Twitter and then contact the people via email and pose as embassy officials. Then they ask for lots of details such as passport number, Emirates ID number, and names and contact details of the company and HR manager.”

After securing all the details from their potential victims, the fraudsters use those details to create fake social media profiles. Using those handles, they share derogatory posts against the complainants’ companies and managers.

They then approach the companies or managers via WhatsApp and share the screenshots of the defamatory posts.

“They pose as some NGO and instigate the companies or managers to file police complaints against the employees. They also blackmail the innocent employees to extort money,” the official explained.

“Some posts carry very derogatory remarks with personal mobile number of the HR manager. Naturally, companies have started filing defamatory cases,” she said.

After the duped workers directly approached the embassy for help, officials investigated the cases and found out the scam.

Of the three cases, at least one company has been convinced about the innocence of its employee after the embassy officials’ intervention.

“We are in receipt of other enquiries but we don’t know to what extent people have been duped,” the official said.

“A lot of people have received emails from the same account and the companies are contacted from the same WhatsApp number. So, we believe it is a scam and we want to alert our citizens against it,” the diplomat added.