Crime and Courts

UAE shoppers warned about online scams during holiday season

Bernd Debusmann Jr. (Chief Reporter)/Dubai Filed on December 16, 2015 | Last updated on December 16, 2015 at 05.50 am
UAE shoppers warned about online scams during holiday season

Over 2m UAE residents fell victim to cybercrime last year.

UAE shoppers are being advised to be on the lookout for Internet scams during the holiday shopping season.

According to a recent Norton Cybersecurity Insights Report, over two million UAE residents fell victim to cybercrime over the last year, 20 per cent of which said their personal information was stolen after using an online retailer. Additionally, more than half of all UAE consumers reported that their account passwords had been compromised.

Don't take threat of cyber crime lightly

> Cyber crime remains a pervasive threat to organisations in the UAE, with 41 per cent of respondents indicating that it had impacted them in the past 24 months as per Global Economic Crime Survey done by PricewaterhouseCoopers'.

> In the Middle East, cyber-crime is the second most common form of economic crime.

> The region's digital markets are expanding at an overall compound annual growth rate of 12 per cent and are expected to be worth $35 billion in 2015.

> Over the past few years, all sectors are exposed in the Middle East, including:

The public sector - 19 UAE government websites were targeted in July 2014, according to the Telecommunications Regulatory Authority (TRA) of the UAE

Oil and gas - Saudi Aramco and RasGas, the Qatari national gas producer, fell victim to attacks in 2012.

Financial services - RAK Bank in the UAE and BMI in Oman were attacked in 2012 and 2013, respectively, by an international group of hackers.

According to Norton, there are several common scams which people fall victim to during the holiday season. Among the most popular is the so-called "click and receive scam" in which a user receives an e-mail informing them they've received an unexpected package from the post office or a well-known vendor. They are then asked to fill out a form that includes personal information.

In another widespread scam, consumers are lured to fake websites which are often almost identical to that of legitimate online retailers. The victims are then infected with malware, which can then be used to gain access to private computer systems or information.

In its research, Norton found that many online shoppers also fall victim to "offer alert" scams, in which online vouchers or codes re-direct them to malicious websites asking for credit card information. In most cases, these websites use false offers and promises of free gifts to lure unsuspecting victims.

Tamim Taufiq, Norton's Territory Manager for the Middle East, told Khaleej Times that there are simple steps users can take to avoid falling victim to such online scams.

"When it comes to protecting yourself against cybercrime, knowledge is power," he said. "There are a number of ways consumers can protect themselves including using unique and strong passwords across different accounts, not clicking on links from purported companies or financial institutions and instead logging onto to the company website directly, and being wary of too-good-to-be-true offers."

"By doing so, you put yourself one step ahead of criminals looking to exploit you," he added.

Additionally, Norton recommends setting up a dedicated e-mail account for online shopping, which is not to be used for business and personal correspondence or online banking, ensuring that up-to-date security software is installed, and carefully checking credit card statements for unexpected transactions.

The UAE - both individuals and companies - has been under increasing attack from cyber criminals in recent months.

In May, a report from cyber security giant Kaspersky found that the UAE was among the five top targets for cyber criminals during the first quarter of 2015, alongside Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Egypt and Oman.

The report found that approximately 30 per cent of users reported coming into contact with online viruses and 41 per cent experienced "local threats" spread through USB sticks, shared files on local networks, CDs or DVDs.


Bernd Debusmann Jr.

Originally from Mexico City, I've been in Dubai since January 2015. Before arriving in in the UAE I worked as a general news reporter in TV and print in Mexico City, NYC and Washington DC. I'm interested in defence issues, politics, technology, aviation and history. In my spare time i enjoy traveling and football - I'm a keen fan of Chelsea FC. I developed an interest in the Middle East traveling through Jordan and the West Bank. I have a BA in Political Science from Dickinson College in the USA and an MA in International Journalism from City University London.

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