I recently received an SMS asking to pay Dh10 ($2.7) for delivery of a package. Since I was expecting a courier delivery at the time, I clicked on the link and used my debit card to make the payment, after receiving a one-time password link.
I was asked to put in the OTP one more time. When the payment was made, I received an SMS from my bank informing me about a transfer of Dh45,000 to another account.
I called my bank immediately to inform them of the scam. They promised to investigate the matter.
However, after following up with the bank for two months, they now tell me that it’s not their fault and blame me instead. The bank also refuses to refund the lost amount.
They also blame the card issuer, saying that company isn’t willing to reimburse the amount.
I am traumatised at losing a big chunk of my savings. The bank’s victim blaming attitude is also disappointing.
How do I go about getting my money back from the bank? Should I lodge a police complaint, too? JK, Dubai
Debt panellist 1: Steve Cronin, founder of DeadSimpleSaving.com
This scam is very common at the moment, mainly because it works so well. All of us receive parcels and sometimes there is customs duty or another unexpected fee.
You broke at least three cardinal rules though. It’s best to never make payments from any SMS link — start with the assumption that all links sent to you are fraudulent and then work back from there.
Scammers can make it look like it comes from someone else — similar to the scam that appears to send messages from the police or a government department.
You should be able to make any payment requested via the company’s website using a transaction or tracking code provided.
Similarly, if someone phones you requesting payment, you should hang up and call the company back on their main phone number.
The second mistake is using your debit card rather than a credit card. Your debit card is the key to your current account — you should only ever use it to get money out at the ATM.
Everything else should go on a credit card (fully paid off each month). If a credit card transaction is fraudulent, there is greater protection for you and the money won’t have disappeared from your account immediately.
Unfortunately for you, the money has gone from your current account. You were right to inform the bank immediately — and I assume the card was cancelled so no further amounts could be taken.
But in providing the card details yourself and then telling the bank this is what you did, you have given them a reason not to reimburse you or track the money down.
Banks in the UAE do not have to reimburse customers who have willingly given out their card details through negligence. You can threaten to move your salary and banking relationship to another bank, though I am not sure this will make them help you.
You can also file a police report and they can try to track the phone sending the SMS but, if the location of the scammer is not known, they may not be able to do much and won’t get your money back.
The third mistake you made was to keep a big chunk of your savings in your current account. If you had kept a maximum of Dh10,000 in your current account and then moved the rest to a savings account, then you wouldn’t have suffered such a big loss.
I’m sorry to say you will probably have to accept this loss and learn to keep most of your money more securely in savings accounts and sensible investments.
Debt panellist 2: Joseph El Am, deputy general manager at StashAway Mena
With technology evolving, cyber crime has become a major threat for today’s society.
Cyber crime is on the rise and scammers are finding new ways to dupe people and steal their hard-earned savings. I am so sorry to hear that you lost a huge amount of your savings to them.
I would suggest that you inform the police. You should have done this as the first step.
When it comes to scams and cyber crimes, you shouldn’t only involve your bank. As soon as this happens, block your account and the card to make sure the criminals don’t come back for more. Open an investigation with the bank and the police.
The Dubai police are highly qualified to track down criminals and bring them to justice. They have an internal cyber crime unit, where you can file your complaint. You can either visit them, call them or report the incident on the Dubai Police app.
For future reference, check the source of the emails and SMS that you are receiving.
Even if you were expecting to receive a package, make sure who is delivering it to you. Do you know the name of the company delivering the item? If not, run a quick Google search.
Before clicking on any link, make sure the domain is correct and reliable. Another tip to check the website’s authenticity is to see whether the URL starts with https, rather than http.
For any payments, big or small, I would recommend using a credit card instead of a debit card. This will help avoid losing big amounts of money as the debit card is linked to the money in your bank account.
However, some credit cards have an insurance for such crimes, so you can benefit from it.
Also, the fact that the fraudsters were able to withdraw Dh45,000 is a big red flag. Make sure to set a daily limit on how much you can spend.
You can always adjust the limit if you have a big payment coming up, but leaving it open-ended leaves the door open for criminals.
Debt panellist 3: Carol Glynn, founder of Conscious Finance Coaching
I’m so sorry this has happened and you have been defrauded of such a substantial amount of money. This is a very common fraud many people have fallen foul of.
This is a more complex situation as you provided the OTP pin. This, in essence and in the eyes of the bank, is evidence that you approved the fraudulent transaction.
It might feel unfair, but in the view of the bank, this makes it different to frauds where your card is used completely without your knowledge.
I would suggest that you lodge a police complaint. I would also recommend you reach out to the card issuer and pursue a refund through them.
Once you have the police report, visit your bank in person and ask to speak to your relationship manager. Provide them with a copy of the report and request them to refund the amount in full.
To protect yourself, always use a credit card for online transactions. Online fraud is increasing and becoming more sophisticated.
Using a credit card protects your cash, limits your risk to your credit limit and it is easier to gain a refund from the bank.
Another way to prevent this is to reduce your online transfer limit to a small amount such as Dh1,000. This way, the transfer would have been rejected and they could not have defrauded you for Dh45,000.
Also, it is wise to keep large sums of money in an account such as a savings account, which does not have a debit card attached.
Keep only the small amounts you need in your current account. This will also protect you from similar frauds if you do not have a credit card and need to carry out online transactions.
The Debt Panel is a weekly column to help readers tackle their debts more effectively. If you have a question for the panel, write to firstname.lastname@example.org