The Dubai Police have issued a warning calling on residents to be vigilant about phone scams following a rise in the number of cases in which people have lost hundreds of thousands of dirhams.
Police in the UAE are co-ordinating efforts following the escalation and spread of such cases across different emirates in which victims have fallen prey to fraudsters who speak multiple languages and often pretend to work with local telecom companies.
“People in Dubai and a nearby emirate were conned out of about Dh780,000 over the past five months by conmen who convinced them that they had won large cash prizes. Since the gang lived in a nearby emirate, we coordinated with the police officers there and then raided their house,” said Brig Saeed Hamad bin Sulaiman, director of Rashidiya police station, who declined to identify the emirate.
Police revealed that 33 alleged fraudsters were arrested over the past two months for tricking residents into transferring money as fees for awards they believed they had won.
The number of cases registered has already shown a marked increase this year compared to just 11 reports during the first five months of 2017.
The funds residents have lost is also higher so far this year with victims reporting that they were cheated out of Dh202,000 last year.
Police at Dubai's Al Rashidiya police station alone have dealt with 12 reports from victims who were tricked into sending money in the hope of obtaining large cash prizes.
In the most recent case, 19 Asian men were arrested after the house they lived in was raided by police on June 5. The men have been accused of repeatedly calling residents promising monetary rewards.
Brig Sulaiman said the calls were made at random to UAE residents.
"The members of these gangs speak different languages. If the person who answers the phone speaks Arabic, he will respond using the same language,” he said.
In another scam, an Asian gang operated from an apartment in Deira. Police officers raided the apartment after an in-depth investigation and the gang was arrested on April 30.
“In this scam a gang of 14 people posing as Etisalat and du agents called people congratulating them on winning a Dh200,000 prize. They persuaded them to transfer money through currency exchange companies or via phone credit as fees to receive the prizes," he said.
Officers found around 70 mobile phones in the apartment and hundreds of phone SIM cards that were registered under the names of people who left the country.
“Some fraudsters convinced victims that the number embossed on the back of their SIM card matched the winning digits,” said Brig Sulaiman.
Despite repeated warnings to residents to rebuff cold callers promising fake cash prizes, people remain gullible and continue to share their bank details.
“On receiving such bogus calls, some people even reveal their pin number. Residents must never divulge personal information to scammers. Most people think that those who divulge personal information to scammers are just ignorant, but many are actually well-educated,” he said.
Police said the numbers could be higher since people were self-conscious about publicly admitting they had fallen prey to swindlers.
“Some scam victims are too embarrassed to report the incident to police. Everyone must report such practices," Brig Sulaiman urged.
Both du and Etisalat have conducted campaigns alerting consumers about scammers.
Security tips publicised by both companies warn that clients should not provide personal banking information, PIN numbers, SIM card and passport details over the phone.