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Scammers target holiday returnees

Scamsters impersonate immigration officials to extort money from expats flying back to the UAE after the summer vacation

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XPRESS

Dubai: Conmen impersonating General Directorate of Residency and Foreigners Affairs (GDRFA) officials are targeting expats returning from vacation to extort money.

And since they use Caller ID Spoofing, which allows them to mimic GDRFA’s call centre and toll free numbers, the recipients are often deceived into believing that the calls are legitimate.

Rampant racket

Of late, scores of holiday returnees have got such bogus calls. They have been told they have committed serious immigration offences while travelling and could be deported if they didn’t fix the anomaly by paying up to Dh3,000.

 I was told that I faced deportation and a 15-year ban from entering the UAE”

 - Anita Joseph, Indian Expat


Longtime UAE resident Anita Joseph, who flew back to Dubai recently after a month-long holiday in India, said she was aghast when a man claiming to be an immigration officer called her and threatened to deport her as she had not filled an important immigration form.

“I told him I used the E-Gate and don’t remember anyone asking me to fill any form. However, he refused to reason with me. Instead, he handed the phone to someone he said was his senior. The new man said his department had published a notice in all newspapers urging residents to update their immigration records and since I hadn’t done that I faced deportation and a 15-year-ban from re-entering the UAE. I was told that the only way out for me was to immediately remit Dh1,500 to a certain bank account towards legal fees. Luckily, I had the good sense to put him on hold and use the other phone to call my husband who told me it was a scam.

Anita said when she recounted her experience on Facebook, her post was deluged by comments from several UAE residents sharing similar experiences.

Pakistani expat Areesha Naz said a caller posing as a GDRFA staff demanded Dh3,000 from her niece as she did not fill a ‘landing’ form.

Another Dubai resident, S.K. from India, said he had barely come back from a Europe trip when he was asked to fork out Dh2,500 to rectify a ‘big immigration violation’. “What intrigues me is that how did the scamsters know I was travelling. I suspect it was from my Facebook posts,” he said.

Sharjah resident Radhika Manoj said her husband were asked to pay Dh1,200 for each of their four family members on August 4, the day after they returned to the UAE from Georgia.

How the scam operates

1. Conmen posing as immigration staff call residents saying they haven’t updated their immigration records or have forgotten to fill an important ‘landing form’ on arrival.

2. They threaten to report the ‘offence’ to Dubai Police and have the person deported unless he/she immediately pays a certain amount towards legal fees.

3. They don’t disconnect the line until the money is wired to them.

4. Victims can’t phone back as conmen use VOIP to spoof calls and thus remain unreachable.

What is caller ID spoofing?

Caller ID spoofing allows a caller to masquerade as someone else by falsifying the number that appears on the recipient’s caller ID display.

To make a spoof call, all that you have to do is to open a form on the vendor’s web page, enter your phone number, the recipient’s phone number, and the number you want to appear on the recipient’s caller display. Some VoIP providers also allow the user to configure their displayed number as part of the configuration page on the provider’s web interface.

YOUSPEAK

Have you or any one you know received such a bogus call?

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