UAE: Etisalat warns of scams as residents lose thousands of dirhams

e& has put out an advisory warning people to avoid unsafe links and to be careful about sharing personal information online

by

Nasreen Abdulla

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Published: Thu 13 Jun 2024, 6:00 AM

Last updated: Thu 13 Jun 2024, 11:49 PM

When Dubai resident U.B. got a call from her close friend requesting her to recharge the e-sim he had bought; she immediately went online to do so. Unfortunately for her, the first link she encountered for the UAE-based telecom operator Etisalat by e& was a fake one. It was a website that bore the name of the telecom provider, but with one letter extra. (See photo below)

“I am very conscious about scams so I checked and re-checked several times,” she said, speaking to Khaleej Times. “However, I did not notice the slight error in the spelling of the website. That was my first mistake. The rest of the website looked exactly like the Etisalat one. I entered my card details and I got an OTP. Usually when you get the OTP, you just look at the number and don’t read the whole message. That was the second mistake I made. Once I entered the OTP, a sum of Dh1,954.75 was deducted from my account.” (See photo below)


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Now, e& has put out an advisory warning people to avoid unsafe links and to be careful about sharing personal information online. In a video posted to the account on social media platform X, the company has shared how some sites mimic their official sites.


In the video, some websites have the address www.emirates.co.ae, while others had www.etisalat.com. However, the video pointed out that such fake websites often have a tag showing that they were not secure.

U.B. admitted that she considered herself incredibly lucky that she only lost around Dh2,000. “I have heard horror stories and accounts from people who have lost up to Dh30,000,” she said. “I only lost an amount that I can recuperate from. It was an expensive lesson but one I will never forget in my life. I think, henceforth, I will never recharge from a website. I will always download the app or do it directly from my bank.”

Awareness campaign

In a campaign launched by e& along with the Cyber Security Council of the UAE, several tips have been given to consumers on how they can avoid falling prey to such scams. The website instructs users to never give out their OTP or click on links instantly. It encourages people to always click or download files only after ensuring that they are safe.

The website also clarifies that the company’s representatives will never ask for money or gifts and will only verify customers with an OTP or security pin. It also identifies the top four channels used by scamsters — email, voice calls, social media or WhatsApp and SMS. The key signs indicating that it is a fraudulent communication is also listed under each channel.

In addition to this information, the website also gives users the option to block fraudulent websites and report scam callers.

Be suspicious

According to an expert, it is important for people to be think before acting. “Recently there has been an increase in different types of fraud scams and they get smarter every time,” said Abi-Gail Marshman, Head of Financial Crime Consulting – Middle East & North Africa at FTI Consulting. “These scamsters operate by not giving the victim time to think and creating a false sense of urgency. It is important that people stop, calm down, think and ask themselves if a phone call or link could be legitimate. If for example, it is a call from a bank, disconnect the call and then phone the bank back.”

She said that people had to be suspicious of every person or link they encounter. “It is in their best interest to be suspicious,” she said.

“We are a bit naïve in the UAE because we live in a very safe country. The rest of the world is far more vigilant because they are expecting to fall victim to crime, whether it is a pickpocket or someone that snatches their child. However, in the UAE because it is safe, everyone relaxes and that is the mistake they make.”

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