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UAE residents urged to be vigilant against new wave of ‘sophisticated’ scams

Corporate lawyers Michael Kortbawi and Mahmoud Kreidie recently spoke with Al Arabiya News on the increase of scams in the UAE, and how residents can stay vigilant. 

Certainly, the rise in scams, particularly during the year-end holidays, has become a growing concern with cyber-criminals utilizing increasingly sophisticated methods to deceive individuals and companies in the UAE. Prevalent scams involve offenders posing as representatives, particularly from well-known institutions such as prominent local banks and governmental bodies.

In these incidents, scammers often contact individuals and companies, claiming that there are issues with their accounts or that they need to update their Know Your Customer (KYC) data. The callers typically ask for sensitive information such as Emirates ID information, passport numbers, date of birth, and other personal details. Unfortunately, some victims, particularly newcomers to the UAE, fall prey to these scams as they may feel compelled to comply with what they believe are legitimate institutional requests.

One distressing case involved a client who was conned out of 1.5 million AED, as scammers posed as UAE immigration department officials. The scammers utilized the similar tactics of obtaining personal information, leading to considerable financial losses for the victim.

Residents should remain vigilant and aware of warning signs to protect themselves from falling victim to such scams. Common indicators include unsolicited calls, emails, or messages, requests for personal or financial information, pressure tactics, and promises of prizes or rewards in exchange for upfront payments. The data indicates that such communications originate mainly from countries such as Nigeria, India, Romania, and Pakistan using mobile numbers. Residents are reminded that no authority or bank will get in touch using mobile numbers. 

In response to such practices, Dubai Police has been actively working to address these scams and has initiated measures against the perpetrators. However, tracking down the offenders is challenging, as they often operate from outside the UAE, necessitating a complex level of international cooperation.

In terms of laws, the UAE has put in place rigorous regulations to combat fraudulent activities. Acts falling within the scope of cybercrime, identity theft, and financial fraud are punishable under several laws, including Federal Law No. 34/2021 on Combating Rumours and Cybercrime. If fraudsters are caught, they face severe legal consequences, including imprisonment and hefty fines. However, the challenge lies in apprehending these criminals due to their elusive nature and the furtive techniques they employ.

As a precautionary measure, residents are advised to verify the legitimacy of any communication, report suspicious and apprehensive activities to the authorities using UAE’s Cybercrime Helpline by calling 800-2626, and refrain from sharing sensitive information over the phone or online unless certain of the legitimacy of the request. It is also highly advisable to check community websites where such scams are reported daily. Protecting oneself from scams is a matter of due diligence. Verify before you trust, because a moment's caution can save you from a world of financial trouble.

Read the full article, as published, here: UAE residents urged to be vigilant against new wave of ‘sophisticated’ scams.

This article was written by corporate lawyers Michael Kortbawi and Mahmoud Kreidie. 

BSA is a regional Law Firm in the Middle East with offices in the UAE, Oman and Saudi Arabia. As a full-service law firm our practice areas include litigation, arbitration and corporate services, including M&A, banking & finance, Intellectual Property, TMT, Fintech, employment and insurance.

Published on 18 January, 2024.

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