Social media accounts offering government services are fake, police warn

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Victims falling prey to scammers advertising on social media platforms posing as representatives of licensed companies that specialize in performing government services are on the rise.

Several residents, who requested these services for a small fee in various emirates, filed complaints with the police after being defrauded.

Security measures

Authorities have confirmed that fake representatives posing for licensed companies specializing in completing residency procedures, vehicle permits, apartment rental contracts, enrolling children in schools deceived many residents.

The victims discovered that they had been targeted by fraudsters who stole large sums of money from them for official transactions that did not go through.

Following the spread of these illegal practices, the Home Office warned against dealing with those who exploited the pandemic to defraud people by posting advertisements to provide transaction fulfillment services.

Major General Saif Al Zari Al Shamsi, Sharjah Police Commander-in-Chief, warned community members against dealing with unofficial social media accounts or giving out personal information because fraudsters use them to blackmail victims into getting money.

He said most of these people belong to organized fraud rings that use social networking sites to carry out their illicit activities and target families and young people in the Gulf countries and Arab countries in general.

He insisted on the need to verify the true identity of advertisers before dealing with them, not to be deceived by attractive addresses, and not to send them official documents containing personal information.

He pointed out that if the fraudsters are from outside the country, the relevant departments communicate through official channels, such as the international police (Interpol), to track the accused, arrest and prosecute them, contrary to the belief that prevails among some victims not to report the accused who is abroad.

Sharjah Police has also created electronic patrols to root out IT related crimes by monitoring suspicious and fake accounts of impersonators.

An official from the Sharjah Police Cybercrime Department said such activities are carried out by organized networks, pointing the finger at cybercrime, which constituted 39% of the total reports submitted to the relevant departments. “At least 19 reports are received by the relevant police department per month,” Al Shamsi added.

A police officer from Dubai Police said they have received many complaints related to this type of fraud, especially during the pandemic.

He attributed the main reasons why some residents contacted these people for the alleged services to the offer of discounted fees compared to the actual fees for the services.

Covid-19 had already witnessed movement restrictions, many expats saw their salaries cut and children attending online classes; therefore, residents trust those people who send their business cards to prove their credibility.

Penalties

Salim Sahoh, a lawyer with Sharjah courts, said the charges against the perpetrators of these crimes include a prison sentence of at least two years and a fine of 20,000 Dh.

Lawyer Khaled Al-Mazmi said that an unauthorized person who impersonates an agent in order to erase transactions aims to obtain documents and personal data from customers and use them to commit several crimes such as ” impersonation” and falsifying transactions to serve his interests, such as mining “Etisalat Cards” with the names of document owners and selling them to people who may be legally wanted, which involves the owners of this data.

He pointed out that if the scammers steal money by fraud, the penalty provided for in Article 399 of the Federal Penal Code is “imprisonment or a fine, and in the event of an aggravated circumstance, it may result in a penalty of imprisonment not exceeding two years or a fine not exceeding 20,000 Dh.”

Al Mazami said: “If these people leak information, they will be punished with imprisonment for at least one year and a fine of at least 20,000 Dh, or one of these two penalties, as stipulated in article 379 of the same law.”

He said: “As for civil liability, it concerns compensation for material and moral damage, according to article 282 of the Civil Code, which confirms that any damage caused to another obliges the person who caused it, even if it is not distinguished, to guarantee the damage. “

Victims

Salim Obaid Al Baloushi said he found an account on Facebook of a person claiming to be an authorized representative for clearing transactions and official documents in government agencies. He claimed that he provides services including renewal of vehicle ownership, payment of registered violations, as well as clearing residency procedures for workers and completing registration and transfer of children in schools, for a fee not exceeding 200 Dh for each transaction.

Salim contacted the person at the phone number published in the ad and asked for more details. “I was looking for services such as renewal of residence visas and issuance of visit visas for family members as well as other services related to traffic services. But I was surprised after contacting him via (WhatsApp) that he asked me to send him my identity papers (passport and Emirates identity card) under the pretext of “opening a file, as a new client and paying an amount of 3,000 Dh to include my name in their companies database” which made me doubt his credibility and asked him to submit licenses approved by relevant authorities, i decided to stop dealing with him .”

Fake business license

Abdulatif SwarAl Dahab said the pandemic forced him to deal with a transaction clearinghouse from an advertisement posted on social media.

He contacted them to inquire about the services. A person who claimed to be the manager of the company asked him to pay 150 dollars to open his files and transfer the sum to a bank account in an Arab country, which he accepted and transferred the sum.

The victim added that the “manager” contacted him within 48 hours via WhatsApp messages, and asked him to transfer an additional $1,000 to obtain the required power of attorney from the competent authorities, as well as a “customer card. to complete government procedures. through authorized representatives in the country.

To prove his credibility, the scammer sent a copy of the office license and other documents.

Abdulatif was convinced and transferred the required amount. Soon his calls went unanswered, prompting him to file a complaint with the police only to find out that the services were bogus and the documents were forged.

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