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Etisalat takes measures to guard against phone phishing scam

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Etisalat has reminded phone users to be vigilant of phone phishing following reports of UAE residents being hit by the ‘Wangiri scam’.

The scam occurs when people ring back a missed call from an anonymous international number, and are then routed to premium rate numbers. An automated message then plays, which cannot be disconnected unless the user switches off his phone.

The tactic, which has been used in many countries around the world, is known as Wangiri as the word translates to ‘one ring and cut’ in Japan, the country where the ruse was first used by criminals.

Etisalat said the company is aware of the scam targeting UAE users, and has put measures in place to limit the fraudulent activity. 

“[We have] rolled out several scam awareness campaigns for our customers and we will continue to raise awareness through mainstream media and social media as well,” Etisalat said in a statement.

“Additionally, we have also put limits on credit transfers of large denominations because we have noticed that such transfers have links to fraudulent activities.”

Most at risk

However, Abu Muadh, founder of Smart Labour, an education app for blue-collar workers in the UAE, said that labourers are most at risk of scams but have received the least information.

“A lot of effort goes into informing the public but the real problem is educating people in the camps,” he said.

“There are 2.2 million blue collar workers in the UAE. They have no education, they are at a complete disadvantage. And that education needs to be in their languages.”

More than one scam

As well as recorded messages, victims of the scam have also received other numbers and texts offering contests to win money. When they call back, the pre-recorded response sucks away the user’s credit.

Muadh says of the tactic that “it is easy to lure them into a scam with the promise of a prize” given the sums that they earn – which he says is typically around AED1,000 and AED1,500 per month.

“I’m working on an information security course for them so they can understand the risks.”

Action taken

The Etisalat statement noted its efforts to counter the threat, and said it takes action against fraudsters. 

“As a mandatory requirement, with new subscribers our business centers make sure to capture all customer details from his or her original ID card by using our ID readers and only if they are present in person,” the company said. 

“We also work closely with relevant authorities to ensure that appropriate action is taken against fraudsters who cheat innocent people. We continue to urge them to be vigilant of such scams and not fall victim to fraudsters claiming to be Etisalat’s staff.”

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