Dubai: 494 arrested for phone fraud cases, targeting banking customers

The fraudsters used phone calls, emails, SMS, and social media links to trick victims and access their savings and bank accounts


A Staff Reporter

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Published: Mon 8 Apr 2024, 12:24 PM

Last updated: Mon 8 Apr 2024, 10:57 PM

Did you receive a call from someone recently asking you to ‘update banking information’? Chances are he is now behind bars. The Dubai Police have arrested 494 individuals involved in 406 phone fraud cases targeting bank customers over the past year.

The fraudsters used phone calls, emails, SMS, and social media links to trick victims and access their savings and bank accounts. The police said they have seized “significant amounts of money”, mobile phones, laptops, and SIM cards used to execute these scams.

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Such scam callers have been active in the UAE for many years and authorities have repeatedly warned residents against them. Earlier this year, a Portuguese cabin crew shared the heartbreaking story of how she lost Dh200,000 in a bank scam. “I was saving up because I wanted to resign and go home,” she said, speaking to Khaleej Times, on condition of anonymity. “But instead, I lost everything.”

A resident of Dubai for over four years, she had heard so much about phone scams that she wouldn’t even pick up calls from unknown numbers. However, on that fateful day, the scammers caught her at a time when she had just returned from a long night flight and was so exhausted that she could not even think straight.

Common tactic

Brigadier Harib Al Shamsi, acting director of the General Department for Criminal Investigation, urged residents to never reveal their banking details or credit card information to anyone claiming to be from a financial institution. A common tactic that fraudsters use is telling victims that their bank accounts would be frozen unless they update the details.

“Banks never seek information updates via the phone. Customers are advised to update their details directly through the banks' branches, official customer service representatives, or authenticated banking applications,” the officer said.

Residents who fall for these scams have been urged to report it to the police immediately.

In 2022, Sharjah Police's Criminal Investigation Department (CID) arrested a gang of five people for running a similar racket. The scammers would make random calls and tell their victims that they needed to update their bank details, adding that their accounts would be frozen if they didn't respond. They then proceeded to wipe out the life savings of many residents before being caught.

Various scams

Apart from pretending to be from the bank, the scammers would sometimes even pretend to be from government institutes.

Last year, Syrian national Mohammed Yaseen shared how he got a call from 'Dubai Police', asking him to update his details on their system. "I was certain it was a scam, and was about to disconnect the call when they sent me an OTP," he said, speaking to Khaleej Times. "The OTP came from the same chain of text messages from Dubai Police which earlier sent me details about fines and accident reports. So, I continued the call.”

Yaseen gave the scammers several details but got suspicious when they pressed him for his credit card details.

In 2020, another Abu Dhabi resident shared with Khaleej Times how a man called claiming to be from the Central Bank of the UAE asking him for Emirates ID details and warning that refusal to do so would result in all his bank accounts being blocked. The scammer even sent an SMS from a number titled 'ICA'- the acronym of the Federal Authority for Identity and Citizenship.


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