Experts offer advice on how to avoid being scammed

Amir Kolahzadeh, a cyber security expert, said it is often just a case of using common sense.

Clinton Firth, cyber advisory leader for the Middle East and North Africa at Ernst & Young. Satish Kumar / The National
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ABU DHABI // Financial fraud experts have simple advice on thwarting online thieves.

Amir Kolahzadeh, managing director of ITSEC, one of the Middle East’s industry leaders in cyber security, said it was often a case of using common sense.

“Use strong passwords that cannot be easily guessed or be constructed from viewing your social networking profile, such as a dog’s name or birthdays,” he said. “Beware of scams and protect your data as you protect your wallet in a busy street.

“Understand what you are clicking on before you click it.”

When it came to debit and credit cards, Noor Bank’s Waleed Barhaji said it was important to protect details such as the card number, expiry date and the card verification value code at all costs.

“Be vigilant about who is handling your card every time it is taken out of your sight for a transaction,” he said.

“If you pay for a restaurant bill with a card, either ask for a portable point of sale machine to be brought to your table or accompany the waiter to the payment terminal. Don’t be embarrassed to take such precaution.”

Mr Barhaji said residents should ensure that online shopping websites were secure before making any payments.

“Also protect your personal information and don’t respond to requests for personal or account information online,” he said.

“Watch out for convincing imitations of banks or credit card issuers.

“Install anti-virus software on your devices and don’t open email attachments from unknown senders.

“Also avoid using ‘public’ terminals to access sensitive information that involves passwords, banking applications and personal data.”

Legal consultant Hassan Elhais said another thing to keep in mind was that there was no “short cut” to getting quick money.

“If somebody offers you a random donation or gift, or if a person approaches you promising riches because your name is similar to somebody else, there is a very high chance that you are being subjected to a scam,” he said.

For individuals who are victims of financial crime, Mr Elhais said the effects can be devastating.

“I saw some instances where victims had transferred all their life savings to bogus schemes and online scams based on false stories and promises,” he said.

“Some of these victims have even attempted suicide.”

Clinton Firth, cyber advisory leader for the Middle East and North Africa at Ernst & Young, said losing money through online scams was no different to losing money during a physical robbery.

“A lot of the effects are the same,” he said.

“The main difference is people are generally less willing to talk about it as they may feel inferior for falling for such a scam, and if the event happened at home it can leave people feeling generally very insecure in their own residence,” he said.