ATM bank fraud SMS
Dubai Police said all scam messages contain suspicious links, and warned residents not to open links from unknown sources. Image Credit: Al Ameen Service

Highlights

  • Filipina resident falls victim to bank scam, fraudster contacted her through phone calls and SMS
  • She lost her savings, and has debt stacked up on her credit card from cash advances pulled by the scamster
  • The bank is investigating the case, but Bilog's attempts to claim insurance or get her money back have proven futile
  • Federal Authority for Identity & Citizenship sent a detailed comment to Gulf News with warnings for residents

A Filipina expat has fallen victim to an online banking fraud doing the rounds in Dubai. SB (name with held on request), who works as an administrative assistant for a private firm in the city, was left counting her losses after she became yet another victim to a bank scam.

Modus Operandi

In what is said to be typical modus operandi for scamsters, Bilog said it all started when she received a call on April 25 (Thursday), from someone claiming to be from Emirates NBD Bank.

“The number is still in my records (056 937 4561). The person said my Emirates ID was not up-to-date in the bank records and that had to be done as soon as possible, else the card would be blocked. I was in a meeting and I did not have time to double check for facts.

I checked with a colleague and showed her the message I received from this number. She said she was not familiar of any such thing and asked me to double check on the authenticity of the message,” she said.

ALSO READ:

This operation seems very similar to an online scam Gulf News reported in April after Dubai Police issued a warning to residents about websites linked to emails or text messages from fraudsters fishing for bank details.

Bilog however, remembered she had submitted her Emirates ID details late to the bank. And so she thought this could be a genuine call.

She sent her details and soon received an authentication code from the same message thread which also read that her ID had been approved and was ready for collection.

Online fraud Filipina victim
A series of SMSs sent by the online fraudster to SB

The fraudster called SB again from the same number and asked her to upload the Emirates ID details immediately to her bank account.

She said she was in a meeting and asked him if she could do it later. He refused, saying the authentication code will expire and that it has to be updated immediately. What is more, he offered to do the same for her. “I was busy and I thought he was a genuine person. I trusted him and gave him my bank details.”

“He asked me for my bank user name and even ran the security questions which I had listed in my online account. I answered all my security questions. After the call ended, I went on with my meeting and did not bother to check my messages.”

When Bilog checked her phone after her meeting, she was horrified to find that the fraudster had swindled off Dh21,700 from her account.

Her bank account was emptied to the tune of Dh12,700 and credit card used for cash advances up to Dh9,000. The fraudster made a series of nine Dh1,000 cash advances from Bilog’s credit card and transferred the amounts to his account.

“The beneficiary account carries the name Shahaid Mahmoo. These cash advances have also incurred me fees of Dh935.55 plus finance charges of Dh96.44,” she said.

In total, she has lost Dh22,731.99 in just a matter of an hour.

online scam
A series of cash advances were made on her credit card

Futile attempts to get money back

Bilog said she made a desperate call to Emirates NBD to block her account, but it was in vain as the bank informed her that it was too late.

The next thing she did was head to the nearest police station and register a complaint with the authority. A case has been filed with Dubai Police (case number – 2019/13456). Another complaint has been filed with Emirates NBD as well.

According to Bilog, the bank informed her little can be done as it is her fault for giving away her account details to an unknown person. 

“I have tried asking the bank and the insurance provider to reimburse my credit card transactions, but my requests have been rejected. Firstly, I've filed a dispute for these transactions with ENBD and was rejected too as a staff told me this dispute should not have been filed in the first place as this was a result of a fraud. I requested the bank to waive the cash advance fees and the finance charges attached to it, that [request] too was rejected."

In yet another desperate attempt, SB has asked the bank for a settlement plan wherein she will not incur any more charges or interests on these amounts, but another bank staff informed she has to settle the default payment first and only then, the bank will discuss settlement plans with her.

“I am likely to incur at least Dh230 late payment fees on this”, SB said.

FilipinaOnlineScam
SB has reported the case to Dubai Police

“As I was talking to Dubai Police, they informed me that I would not have to pay for the credit card as all banks in the UAE have insurance for such transactions. I tried to ask the bank about this but the staff said my card (U by Emaar) does not cover insurance for such fraudulent transactions.”

Bilog has lost all her money and savings, with practically no recourse left to get her money back. "This was my hard-earned money and I have lost it all. I hope no one does the mistake like I have done", she said.

Response from the bank

At the time of publishing, there was no immediate official statement from Emirates NBD to a Gulf News query on the case. A spokesperson for the bank, however, said they were investigating the matter, and that they would issue a detailed statement on Monday.

An earlier comment from the bank regarding another online scam warned customers to be aware of phishing attacks floating around in the emirate.

"We urge customers to be highly vigilant and always check the source before clicking on any links or attachments in e-mails. Emirates NBD would never ask you for your personal details such as account number, online or mobile banking credentials, and or debit or credit card details such as username, password, PIN or the three-digit CVV number," the statement from the bank read.

Government warning to customers

Meanwhile the Federal Authority for Identity & Citizenship sent a detailed comment to Gulf News warning customers to take information from only official sources and not fall victim to irresponsible posts.

A spokesperson for the government authority said customers must communicate only through its valid channels like the call centre or via social networks.

An email statement to this effect read: “We call on customers to take the information from our official sources and not to fall victim to irresponsible posts and to communicate with it through its own channels of communication, whether through the call centre on (600530003), through our pages on social networks, or via (Live Chat) service, which is available on our website, as well as ICA customer happiness centres located all over the emirates of the State…”

“ICA warns against any suspicious calls or requests by persons who impersonate employees and requests customers' data be updated by phone.”

The government body warned the public not to disclose their information in any circumstances, especially those related to bank accounts and personal information, stressing that such information should not be given on the phone. “It has to be done at the ICA’s centres,” the spokesperson said.

The Federal Authority for Identity and Citizenship confirmed that updating customers’ data in the Population Register and Identity Card system is done through safe and secure methods and means. “There are many verification methods that guarantee the reliability of the person's identity and the validity and integrity of the data associated with him,” the statement read.

“ICA negates that the telephone call or e-mail is from the means used to record or update the data of individuals, indicating that the amendment of any data, no matter how simple, requires the presence of the person concerned with his identity card at one of its customer happiness centres and then completing the service after following the authorised verification procedures.”

The statement added ICA stressed its technical systems have the highest degree of protection against piracy and equipped with the latest programs on global level to ensure their safety.

“The Population Register system, registration systems and the services related to the ID Card includes a set of advanced technologies to ensure the integrity of procedures and accuracy of data and the quality and efficiency of services provided to the customers, and immediately reveal any technical defect or an illegal attempt to enter these systems and then take the effective preventive and remedial measures.”

Other scam warnings

Last month, the Abu Dhabi Police also warned customers to not fall prey to online fraudsters.

Brigadier General Omran Ahmad Al Mazroui, director of Criminal Investigation Department at Abu Dhabi Police warned of electronic and phishing methods that use the names of institutions, in addition to national and global events.