Ilustration by Alvaro Sanmarti
Ilustration by Alvaro Sanmarti

How to keep your UAE credit cards safe from fraud

More than a quarter of UAE residents have been hit by credit card fraud yet many cardholders still take minimal precautions to protect themselves against theft.

After all, how often do you see receipts left hanging out of ATMs or scrunched up on the floor or in a nearby bin?

According to a biannual survey by payment systems company ACI Worldwide last year, 27 per cent of UAE residents reported being victim of credit card fraud in the past five years. That figure had been 36 per cent in 2012, but soared to 44 per cent in 2014, topping the worldwide list.

This indicates that credit card fraud here is dropping; last year Mexico and Brazil were the worst countries for credit card fraud worldwide, with the UAE in 11th place, way behind the United Kingdom, United States, France and Singapore.

Yet, according to statistics from Dubai’s Department of Economic Development (DED) and Visa, 37 per cent of residents do not recover money lost in fraudulent transactions. “Fraudsters tend to be one step ahead of the financial institutions, so you need to be vigilant,” warns Michael Routledge, the founder of

UAE wealth and wellness planner Rasheda Khatun Khan, who has twice experienced credit card fraud herself, has been lucky enough to have been refunded by HSBC for both fraudulent transactions, one for Dh1,200 for air miles and one for Dh900 on Fly Dubai tickets. She says that, while “inconvenient”, the reclaim experience has not been a bad one.

Do you know how long you have to report fraud to your bank? Did you know you need ed to file a police report or that you have to pay for the transaction until the bank makes a decision on the case - which could take months? Read on for tips on how to keep your credit cards safe from fraud and how to report any issue:

How might my card be used illegally?

Your details could be picked off your discarded statements or receipts, if you do not shred them. You could simply be pick pocketed or someone could try to read your details over your shoulder at an ATM, or call you posing as bank staff. With contactless payments, fraudsters carrying card readers can even walk past you and take payments, warns Mr Routledge.

You card could be ‘skimmed’ - copies created, after the details have been taken from the physical card, and then sold on - or ‘tumbled’, using computer algorithms to test numbers until a match is made. ‘Phishing’ is a common email scam; an email will appear to be from your bank and invite you to click on a rogue hyperlink, which takes you to a fake bank page. If you sign in, you will have given away all your personal details.

How do I protect my credit card details?

According to ACI Worldwide, 17 per cent of consumers in the UAE make a note of their PIN and carry it with their cards. Clearly, you should not do this. Samer Chehab, chief operating officer of (formerly, says you should never give out your PIN or online banking password, by phone or email.

He also counsels keeping your receipts for 90 days to check against your statements - and to look even for tiny anomalies, as criminals “skim small amounts to lessen the chance of transactions being noticed”.

Even simpler, says Ms Khan, is to sign up for SMS alerts from your bank. That way, you will spot any rogue transactions within minutes - which is how she spotted her two instances of fraud.

Ms Khan warns that UAE receipts often print your credit card number in full, unlike in other countries. A shredder is cheap to buy and shredding your receipts and statements protects your details.

Ms Khan even recommends memorising your three-digit verification number on the back of the card then scratching it off the card itself. This could otherwise be used in conjunction with your credit card number by, for instance wait staff in a restaurant, she says.

Kunal Malani, HSBC MENA’s regional head of customer value management, retail banking and wealth management, says you should contact your bank to advise when you are going abroad to help protect you from fraud while travelling. “Always ensure HSBC has up-to-date contact details for you,” he says,” and take note of our contact centre number in case of an emergency.”

If you are concerned about contactless card fraud, you can buy protective sleeves for your cards, which block them from electronic pickpocketing using scanners.


Read more:


How do I stay safe online?

Bank sites generally have a set of tips on shopping online safely – for instance, using secure sites (ones that use https secure website addresses and display a padlock) and adding an additional layer of Verified by Visa authentication or equivalent for online transactions.

Ms Khan recommends deleting your payment method details after checkout and not using auto-payments. She warns users to keep security software on their computers up to date and to scan regularly.

And here’s a creepy thought. Once in a while, switch your home computer off rather than just leaving it in sleep, she says as “people tend to hack in during sleeping hours".

How do I report credit card fraud?

Contact your credit card company or bank as soon as you notice any fraudulent transaction. “After a thorough investigation, the bank can take actions ranging from blocking suspected transactions, to temporarily suspending cards until the issue is resolved, or closing the cards in concern and helping customers open a new one,” says Mr Malani of HSBC.

According to the Emirates NBD website, errors must be reported within 30 days of the statement date, while NBAD’s Credit Shield protection insurance will only kick in if you report the issue within 48 hours of discovery.

You should immediately change your bank passwords and, once a lost or stolen card case has been opened, you will need to file a police report, whether you are at home or abroad.

What documents will the bank need?

Gather together any documents that will help your case. “Receipts, confirmation emails or text messages related to the fraudulent transaction can go a long way towards resolving the matter,” says Mr Chehab.

Two victims of fraud, who did not want to be named, said they had to provide a boarding pass or photocopies or all pages in their passport to prove where they were at the time the fraud was carried out overseas.

How long will a fraud claim take to process with the bank?

An investigation will be launched between your bank and the card issuer, most likely Visa or MasterCard, says Mr Chehab. The whole process “typically takes between 60 and 90 days”.

Will I have to pay the charges in the meantime?

“Unfortunately, yes,” says Mr Chehab. “If the investigation shows you’re a victim of fraud, through no fault of your own, either the card issuer or the bank will return the funds after the investigation is completed. However, in some scenarios you may be liable for the charges.”

Can I insure my card against fraud?

Ask your bank about Credit Shield, a form of insurance you pay a nominal fee for each month on your credit card bill. Every bank’s Credit Shield operates differently, so do ask first if credit card fraud is covered for your card. Credit Shield may also pay some or all of your minimum balance each month if you lose your job, some medical expenses and death or disablement cover. Ambareen Musa, the founder and chief executive of, says you are typically asked if you want this cover when you sign up for a credit card. However, some banks apply it even when a customer does not want the protection.  "It should not automatically be charged – but check your statement, just in case," says Ms Musa, who adds that the cost is between 0.5 per cent to 0.99 per cent of the monthly outstanding balance. "Each bank differs as the cover differs too so it is important to check the benefits and whether it is really worth it." To cancel Credit Shield cover, simply notify your bank.


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