'I am devastated': Dubai hotelier loses entire life savings to part-time job scam

This scam has already squeezed an estimated Dh400 million from thousands of victims all over the globe, according to AI cybersecurity firm CloudSEK

by

Mazhar Farooqui

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Image used for illustrative purpose. Photo: File
Image used for illustrative purpose. Photo: File

Published: Tue 28 May 2024, 1:58 PM

Last updated: Tue 28 May 2024, 10:29 PM

"Are you interested in a part-time job? This job is very simple. You just enter Google Maps and give a 5-star rating to some restaurants, and you will get paid. We pay Dh10-Dh400 for one task, and you can earn up to Dh2,000 per day."

If you have received a message like this on WhatsApp or via regular text and are contemplating trying to earn a little extra income, banish the thought. It’s a scam. Rachel (name changed), a Dubai hotelier, found this out the hard way when she enrolled in the fraudulent scheme and lost her entire life savings of almost Dh66,000 this month.


"I am devastated," said the Indian expat. "This is totally my fault, but even if I can’t get back my funds, I want to stop others from falling for this racket."

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Rachel is one of thousands of people being targeted on WhatsApp by a scam that has already squeezed an estimated Dh400 million from thousands of victims all over the globe, according to AI cybersecurity firm CloudSEK.

Recounting her ordeal, Rachel said she fell for the scam, which required her to submit orders on a shopping website to earn commissions.

“I completed the first set of simple digital tasks within minutes, and voila Dh175 was credited to my bank account through a crypto wallet, without paying anything upfront. It looked too good to be true,” she said.

Unknown to Rachel, she was being set up for bigger losses. Initially, the tasks promised higher commissions but required her to top up the wallet. "I paid Dh488 and received Dh350 in commissions," she said. The subsequent tasks required top-ups ranging from Dh300 to Dh749.

"I thought I could complete the tasks and withdraw my money," Rachel explained. "But I ended up paying a total of Dh46,000, expecting Dh99,000 in commissions."

When Rachel attempted to withdraw the funds, she was told to pay Dh20,000 in taxes. "Foolishly, I paid the tax to get back my money," she admitted. However, instead of releasing her funds, the fraudsters uploaded 60 new tasks, preventing any withdrawals unless she completed them. "That’s when I realised I had been duped. It was my life savings."

Rachel’s husband of 15 years said he was unaware of the fraud, as his wife wanted to surprise him with the additional income. "I was without a job, and she thought this money would help us get through the crisis," he said.

Recently, Ras Al Khaimah police took to Instagram to warn residents about this fraud.

Last year, Khaleej Times reported how hundreds of Middle East residents, including those from the UAE, lost millions of dollars to a fraudulent earning app called Sky Media. The app claimed to have partnerships with YouTube, TikTok, and Facebook before halting withdrawals and disappearing.

One of the victims was Godfrey Mugunga, a cleaner in Dubai, who lost Dh9,175. The app offered a trial period where users could earn up to $20 and withdraw the money via Binance or USDT, a stablecoin linked to the US dollar. However, to maximise their earnings, users were encouraged to upgrade to VIP levels, which required investments ranging from $150 to $40,000.

What is a task scam

This scam typically involves a website or mobile app that claims you can earn money by completing simple tasks, such as watching a video, liking a post, or creating an order. The catch is that you can only do a limited number of tasks without upgrading your account.

How it operates

Initial outreach: The victim receives a message enticing them with an appealing part-time job opportunity.

Entry assignments: Victims are assigned simple tasks initially, such as liking and subscribing to YouTube videos. These tasks typically yield small payments ranging from Dh100-200.

Advanced assignments: As trust is gained, victims are gradually entrusted with more significant tasks, often pre-paid, with promises of higher returns.

Money transfers: Rachel transferred Dh66,000 to a crypto wallet across 10 transactions. Similarly, Mugunga sent Dh9,175 after being lured with lucrative returns for reviewing videos and eateries. Initially, they received small sums to build trust, but ultimately, substantial amounts were transferred to eight different bank accounts.

How to safeguard yourself

  • Approach unsolicited messages offering easy money for online tasks with scepticism
  • Exercise caution with job offers promising unrealistic returns
  • Refrain from sending money to individuals promising high-paying tasks
  • Validate the legitimacy of job offers and investment opportunities through official channels
  • Never disclose login credentials, personal, sensitive, or financial information to unknown individuals, particularly on messaging platforms
  • Avoid downloading files or apps from unfamiliar sources

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