Ras Al Khaimah Police have arrested a seven-member gang believed to be involved in a sophisticated online scam that swindled people out of money by deception.
The seven are already believed to be guilty of defrauding one victim out of Dh120,000 ($30,060) after convincing him to disclose sensitive financial information, but police suspect there may be other victims across the UAE.
Brig Tariq bin Saif, deputy director general of Police Operations, urged all victims of online fraud to come forward as soon as possible, as it gives authorities a better chance of catching the perpetrators.
“Victims who report within the first 24 hours stand a 90 per cent chance of recovering their stolen funds," he said on Thursday.
"In this particular case, the single report we received helped us connect this gang to a number of other reports lodged in other emirates."
Ras Al Khaimah Police received a report on August 20 through their 901 hotline alleging a man had been deceived out of Dh120,000.
“Within 48 hours, officers from the electronic crimes division had investigated, arrested and referred the case to prosecutors,” he said at a press conference at the force’s headquarters.
The Asian gang was apprehended in a nearby emirate in co-ordination with relevant authorities.
Officers seized various tools believed to be linked to the operation, including an undisclosed amount of cash, 67 credit cards, 32 mobile phones, 111 SIM cards, three iPads and a laptop.
Police said the credit cards bore names of people not residing in the UAE, which were used to move money from one bank account to another.
"Some criminals pay money to individuals leaving the UAE to allow them to issue credit cards in their names and then use these to defraud people," Brig bin Saif said on Thursday.
He said members of the gang operated inside and outside of the UAE and employed a multifaceted strategy that included calls, text messages and WhatsApp messages to access sensitive financial information and steal money.
The criminals convinced the suspected victim they were employees of a legitimate business and persuaded him to share sensitive financial information, including his credit card's PIN and a one-time password.
“Once they had illegally accessed the victim's accounts, the stolen funds were deposited into a series of credit cards, before being transferred to bank accounts outside the country," Brig bin Saif said.
“The initial report that led to the gang's arrest came from a man who lost Dh120,000."
He said police believe there are several other victims who have been swindled out of money by the gang.
"The Dh120,000 is from one report but the rest of the amounts are still being tallied," he said.
He urged other victims of online scams to come forward, regardless of the amounts involved, because the information helps the police identify and arrest criminal networks.
Brig bin Saif urged the public never to share credit card PIN information and one-time passwords.
He suggested using low-limit credit cards, blocking and reporting suspicious callers and regular updating of bank details.
"Digital safety is everyone's responsibility," he said, adding that online police patrols regularly launch awareness-raising programmes.
He urged the public to be vigilant, cautioning that delays in reporting make it increasingly difficult for the police to trace criminals and recover stolen funds.