UAE phone scammers up their game by using personal information

New breed of scam almost cost a Dubai teacher Dh65,000 after fraudsters posed as du employees armed with his last dialled number, passport and Emirates ID details

DUBAI, UNITED ARAB EMIRATES. 4 OCTOBER 2018. UAE resident Karl Marsden. (Photo: Antonie Robertson/The National) Journalist: Gillian Duncan. Section: National.
Powered by automated translation

Scammers calling people claiming they have won large cash prizes have upped their game — and nearly cost one man Dh65,000 in the process.

British teacher Karl Marsden received a call by someone claiming to work for du on June 20 to say he had won Dh200,000.

Already familiar with similar scams, Mr Marsden was sceptical, so the "employee" proceeded to rattle off his personal details including his Emirates ID, passport and even his last dialled number from his existing du mobile phone account.

“Then he said I’ll prove that I work for du. I’ll put you on the diamond plan. I said ‘what’s the diamond plan?’” a question the man did not answer, said Mr Marsden, who lives in Dubai.

The so-called employee proceeded to sign Mr Marsden up to the du diamond plan — which comes with a Dh2,500 cancellation charge and Dh2,500 for every remaining month. That added up to Dh65,000 in Mr Marsden’s case as it was applied to both his du mobile accounts.

The du "employee" then asked Mr Marsden for his card verification code number, the three-digit code on the signature strip on the reverse of bank cards.

“At that point I hung up,” he said.

“I had heard about this scam and I thought this was ridiculous but the fact was he had all my details was frightening.”


Read more:

Dubai Police urge residents to report phone scams after increase in fraud cases

'Wangiri scam' hits UAE: Foreign gangs target residents with phone calls and phishing texts

Emirates airline issues ticket scam warning

Lulu warns shoppers against fake promotional offers


The latest mobile phone scam follows a warning issued by Dubai Police in June which called on residents to be vigilant about phone scams in the wake of a rise in the number of cases in which people lost “hundreds of thousands of dirhams”.

Police said 33 fraudsters had been arrested in the previous two months for tricking people into transferring money they believed they had won. In one case, 19 Asian men were arrested in a raid by police in early June. The men were accused of repeatedly calling residents promising monetary rewards.

Mr Marsden reported the scam to du the same day he was almost conned.

“I went down to a du store and lodged a complaint. This lady came over and took photographs of my text messages,” said Mr Marsden.

“She said 'what has happened is we have had a falling out with a company and they have taken all our data and they are using it'. But why would a hack do that? Why would he put me on the diamond plan?”

The du employee did not give him a complaint number but told him not to worry, assured that they were aware of the scam and the cancellation charges for the two diamond plans would be waived.

After not hearing anything for two weeks, Mr Marsden visited another du store for an update on the case.

“Another guy opened a file case in Mall of the Emirates and he said ‘don’t worry, it will all be sorted out’.

“So I went away back to England and then I got this Dh65,000 bill to cancel the diamond plan in the summer.”

Mr Marsden lodged several complaints with the telecoms Regulatory Authority about the case and was subsequently told by the department that he would not be charged the cancellation fee for the diamond plans.

Until this week, four months on, the charge remained on his account. But after being contacted by The National about the case, du got in touch with Mr Marsden on Monday to confirm that the charges will now be cancelled.

du said Mr Marsden was signed up to the diamond plan "to a result of communication between the customer and a third party." The company said he reported the matter on July 3, rather than on June 20 as Mr Marsden claimed.

"We have reached out to the client and have settled upon a mutually-amicable resolution - both numbers belonging to the customer will be reactivated in due course," du said.

He is relieved, but said it should never have gone on so long.

“Du didn’t handle it appropriately. They should have said ‘sorry, this shouldn’t have happened’. I have been a customer with du for six years,” he said.

“I actually also invoiced du for Dh200,000. I said you owe me Dh200,000 because you said I won that. Funnily enough, I haven’t heard back about that.”

Last month, The National reported how another du customer, David Tobias, had been charged Dh65,000 to cancel a contract he said he was signed up to in error. du agreed to waive the Dh65,000 charge, but Mr Tobias said the company still want him to pay for the VAT on the amount. He was cut off again this week after being reconnected last month.

Du advised customers to report suspicious offers or promotions directly to them or police.

Dubai Police and the TRA were contacted for comment.