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Hundreds arrested over Etisalat phone scam

Fraudsters were duping customers into sending them cash

Hundreds arrested over Etisalat phone scam
Dubai Police have arrested hundreds of people in relation to a phone scam conducted on Etisalat customers.

Dubai Police has fined several hundred fraudsters for duping Etisalat customers into transferring their calling credit and traders offering to sell credit for a fee over the last two years, the director of its cyber crime unit has told Arabian Business.

Police in the emirate have been working in partnership with the UAE operator for several years in a bid to crack down on the number of scammers who call customers claiming to work for Etisalat, before requesting customers transfer credit to their phones to receive fake cash prizes.

"We've caught a few groups who have come from overseas just to work on this business," said Major Saeed Alhajri, director of cyber crime and investigation department for Dubai Police.

"There are the scammers who call and pretend that they are from Etisalat and there is another group who are selling the balance...they say they are just part time traders who are buying a small balance from the shops and they resell it with a small profit - we've caught a few hundred of these people," he added.

Etisalat, the UAE's largest mobile phone operator, first issued a warning to its customers in 2009 advising them not to give out personal information to callers claiming to work for them.

More than 80 readers have contacted Arabian Business to say they have been targeted by scammers who claim they have won often significant cash prizes.

One subscriber said he had been told he had won AED200,0000 in a joint campaign between Etisalat and Dubai Islamic Bank.

"[I was told] to get this money I need to purchase AED1,500 worth of Etisalat cards and to give him pin nos of those cards," the reader said. "It was my big mistake and I did the same as they said."

"This scam is alive and kicking," said another reader. "Just got a call... giving the same old story. ‘Number on SIM card matches and winning amount is AED250,000.' Once you say, you think it's a scam and you put down the phone, they don't dare to call you back."

Jaber Al Janahi, vice present for corporate communications at Etisalat, said the telco had worked with Dubai Police to enable the arrest of hundreds of phone fraudsters.

"[They] have then been sentenced to severe fines and lengthy jail terms, followed by deportation to their home country," he said.

The operator urged its customers not to respond to calls made informing them they had won a cash prize and said official calls are never be made from a mobile number.

"If he asks you to go to a bank to receive the prize, it is a fraud.  An Etisalat representative would request you to visit the head office in Abu Dhabi and at the premises, meet with an official personnel who would have their official ID card," Al Janahi said.

"Under no circumstances would an Etisalat employee ask you to transfer funds into your account as proof of your eligibility to claim a prize that you may have won."

Etisalat advised customers who had been contacted to register a complaint with the operator or contact the police.

 "We advise our victims to register a complaint against the fraudster by calling Etisalat's customer care ‘101' and providing us with the fraudster's number along with time, date and any other details," said Al Janahi said.

"If customers have lost money then they will be asked to lodge a complaint with their local police station for further investigation."


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