Emotional cyber frauds on the rise in region: Scammers send personalised mails, messages to con people, warn experts

The UAE has been ranked 5th worldwide in the UN's Global Cybersecurity Index, with its Cyber Security Council preventing 50,000 cyberattacks per day


Waheed Abbas

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Published: Mon 8 May 2023, 2:37 PM

Last updated: Mon 8 May 2023, 10:54 PM

Emotional cyber frauds are on the rise in the region and globally, as fraudsters are using sounds taken from the social media accounts of people to call their families to extract money.

While speaking during the 2023 Association of Certified Fraud Examiners (ACFE) Fraud Conference Middle East in Dubai on Monday, Hala Bou Alwan, founder and CEO of Hala Bou Alwan Consultancy, said fraudsters have not just partnered with money launderers and corrupt people, but that now, swindlers will even with people’s emotions.

Jamal Saleh, director general of UAE Banks Federation, said that people tend to go into a panic during emotional cybercrimes, which prompts them to remit funds without verifying and counter-checking the scam.

Using Deepfake, he pointed out, fraudsters can make not just audio, but video calls as well to con others.

“People share a lot of lot information about their lifestyle on social media, which can be used by fraudsters. [For example], [someone could] receive a call from a fraudster with Deepfake and [a] voice change, claiming that the caller is his son and he had an accident, and if he doesn’t pay for the damages, he can be arrested. So, the caller will ask to transfer money immediately to an XYZ authority,” he said.

He advised people that in a situation like this, they need to maintain patience and try to get more details from the caller about police and law-enforcement authorities. In the meanwhile, they should do some fact-checking on their mobile.

“Then you tell the caller that I have got the number from this authority and I am going to call them now. Then the fraudster, who is pretending to be his son, will panic if he is not his son. This type of smartness is required to deal with emotional cybercrimes,” Saleh told Khaleej Times on the sidelines of the summit.

He added that, unlike in previous years, the world is a global village, and crimes can now spread fast from one region to another.

How do the best of the best fall victim?

Citing an example, Saleh said one of the world’s best-known 'White Knights' of the cyberworld was sent an email with a message stating that one of his videos will not be monetised due to copyright issues.

“He got upset and clicked on the click. It turned out to be a phishing link, and his channel with millions of subscribers was compromised. This shows that the best of the best can also be compromised,” Saleh said.

To target consumers, people are sent emails saying that they have overpaid bills, receipts and job offers, as click-bait so that they can will click on the file or link.

A tip to protect yourself

He advised people that one of the best ways to protect against fraud emails is to hover your cursor over the sender's email without clicking on it. “After a few seconds, it will display the URL. There are also so many other ways of fraud therefore people will have to be savvy, always.”

Why do fraudsters attack the UAE?

The UAE has been targeted by hackers more frequently, of late, with 50,000 cyberattacks prevented per day by the UAE Cyber Security Council.

Global cybersecurity firm Trend Micro said in its latest report that it detected and blocked over 42 million e-mail threats, and prevented more than 17 million malicious URL attacks, 492,110 URL hosts and 25 million malware attacks.

According to the UAE Banks Federation chief, attacks are high because fraudsters think the UAE has plenty of money, thus targeting the country's financial system and entities.

“The UAE’s level of defence is by far number one and the most advanced. We are called upon by other regions for help,” he added.

The UAE has also been ranked 5th worldwide in the Global Cybersecurity Index of the International Telecommunication Union of the United Nations.


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