Phone scammers who contact people pretending they have got cash prizes don’t differentiate between their purposes even if it is the cybersecurity chief of Dubai Police. In an exclusive interview with Khaleej Times, Col. Saeed M. Al Hajri, Director of Cybercrime Department at Dubai Police, described an episode where fraudsters attempted to cheat him and how he deceived them.
“Someone called me from a mobile number and said he is from the Central Bank. He used the same old trick saying I have won a huge prize and it is my last chance to win it. He did not have any idea who he was talking to.”The scammer on the other side of the phone inquired the officer for his credit card information without recognizing that he was striving to deceive none other than the Dubai chief cop tasked to capture criminals like him.
“I played along and pretended to believe him. I rattled off some false numbers when he asked for my credit card and PIN. He kept trying to enter those details into a system with no luck. I kept wasting his time till he finally hung up in frustration,” said Al Hajri, who has been resisting cybercrime and monetary fraud-related offense in Dubai for over 25 years.
When inquired whether he captured the culprit, Al Hajri said his department is ever alert, but it is difficult to find the phone scamsters when they work from different sectors of the world.“The number may appear as a local one. But these gangs are operating from other countries.”He said Dubai Police acts on each complaint concerning doubtful online behavior. “Whether it is a tip-off, intel, a complaint, we have different strategies to deal with them.”
Criminal gangs practicing in phone frauds have been running in recent years and officials have caught many. In May last year, Dubai Police detained 33 fraudsters for aiming residents with deceitful calls. In one case, 19 Asian men were captured in a raid by police in early June. Between 2019 and February 2020, Abu Dhabi Police showed 13 phone scam gangs including 142 people were detained.
The scamsters’ mode of operation is simple. They reach the victims posing to be bank employees and ask them to give their bank account or credit card particulars to stop freezing of the account. After receiving the details, the scammers utilize it to take the victims’ money. Some gangs assume to be immigration representatives and urge people to pay up to dodge the cancellation of their residency grants. Many slip into the trap after being assured false cash prizes. The Colonel said phone frauds are widespread, as they are a small crime “anyone can do from anywhere”.
“The best way to tackle this is for people to be aware of these scams. When you get a call, you should be psychologically prepared to deal with it. Under no circumstances should you disclose your credit card details and personal data to a stranger on the phone or online,” said Al Hajri.