Financial Scams in Abu Dhabi |

Financial Scams in Abu Dhabi

It is important that we are able to identify the signs of potential risks to us so that we can take the appropriate action.

Posted on

24 July 2013

Last updated on 11 December 2017
Financial Scams in Abu Dhabi

There are various scams in the world and Abu Dhabi is not immune to them. The Dubai Financial Services Authority is a great resource and has a list of alerts for the latest scams as well as explanations of the scam in all of the Emirates. These explanations can help you understand the scam and help you to spot them and identify new attempts in the future. Take a read of the most common financial scams here and find out what you can do to avoid falling for them.

Common Finance Scams

scams in dubaiCold Calling
Cold calling is a sales contact (phone, email or fax) which has not been asked for. The practice of cold calling itself is not a scam, but it is a common way in which scammers make initial contact with intended victims.

Cold calling about financial products or services by unlicensed firms claiming to be from the DIFC is illegal. You should check the Public Register of the DFSA website for a list of all persons and Firms licensed to provide financial services in or from the DIFC.

It is common for cold calling scams to be operated by overseas companies. Cold calling investment scams operate internationally so local agencies such as the DFSA do not have the jurisdiction, and therefore the authority, to investigate and close down their operations.

Buying financial products or services from overseas cold callers is high risk. If you receive a call from an overseas broker selling shares or financial products you can protect yourself by enquiring with the relevant overseas regulator as to the authenticity of the caller. Simply performing an internet search may not be sufficient protection for you as many scammers have developed sophisticated websites to conceal their true purpose.

Fake Bank Emails- Phishing
This scam takes a number of forms. The most common is an unsolicited email which claims to be from a bank, credit card company or some other service which you may use. It asks for account details, and sometimes a PIN, either by return email or through a website.

The email often states that these details are being requested for 'security and maintenance upgrades', the 'investigation of irregularities', ‘surveys’ or 'bills' or 'charges due'.

These emails can look genuine by using:
• the names of real people;
• the right logos and branding;
• links to pages from the real website;
• official-looking fine print; and
• a site that mimics the real thing. Technically, it is easy to copy and paste genuine pages to a new fake address.

Fraudsters scan the internet for email addresses or generate them at random. They may send thousands of such emails. Even if only a few unsuspecting people respond, it is a good result for the scammers.

Banks and financial services companies will never ask for your personal financial particulars over the internet, and therefore you should never provide these details over the internet.

If you have a concern you should always contact your bank.

Ponzi Schemes
One of the simplest, yet most effective, scams perpetrated on unsuspecting investors for many years is the Ponzi scheme. A Ponzi scheme is a fraudulent investment operation that pays returns to separate investors from their own money or money paid by subsequent investors, rather than from any actual profits earned.

In these schemes:
• the promoter promises investors a very high return on their investment and says it is secure;
• part of the money deposited by newer investors is used to pay dividends or interest payments i.e. new investor money is used to pay the older investors;
• the scammer continues paying dividends for a couple of months until investors are more comfortable with the investments, and decide to invest more;
• the investors also begin to urge their friends and relatives to invest as well;
• there is, therefore, a steady flow of funds into the scheme, and the number of investors grows; and
• the scam collapses because the number of new investors entering the scheme is not enough to sustain the payment of dividends to all investors, and/or the scammer spends the money generated by the scheme too quickly.

If the scammer is disciplined about how much money is left in the account to pay "dividends", the scam can go on for many years. Theoretically, if the scheme continues to draw in enough new investors, it could go on indefinitely.

Lottery Scams
A Lottery scam involves an unexpected email advising that a prize has been won in an international lottery. The Lottery described is usually based overseas and one that the recipient of the email never entered. The scammed victim is usually excited about the windfall and keen to claim the money.

The victim responds to the email, and the scammers reply in a polite, professional and helpful manner. The scammers will invariably request a 'fee' that is required in order to process the winnings. That is the fraud. Nothing has been won at all, but winnings are dangled in front of the victim while the scammers try to get as much money as they can in fees and charges.

Lottery scams can take many forms including requests for you to participate in a fictitious lottery. For further information about lottery scams go to:

Boiler Room Scams
Boiler room operations are share scams. The operator will sell worthless or low value shares at inflated prices to investors. To make matters worse these shares are usually impossible to sell once purchased.

The ruse is simple. A broker, usually operating from an overseas firm, will cold call an investor and propose they buy shares in a particular company. The company’s shares may have also been promoted on online message boards and forums as part of the scam.

The scammers use a number of alternative ruses. The company:
• will probably be listed on an illiquid market, so the shares cannot be freely sold, and the price being charged by the scammers will be hugely inflated; or
• could be a small, unquoted company that the broker claims is planning to list; or
• will not exist at all, and the broker is simply selling shares in nothing before taking the money and running.

The firms will operate from boiler room 'hotspots', such as Spain, Switzerland, Japan, Bermuda or the US, so they are outside of the remit of the DFSA. They may have a UK-listed address and a grand sounding name to give them an air of legitimacy.

These scams are called 'boiler room' scams because of the highly pressurised sales technique employed by the broker. The broker can be forceful, persistent and highly aggressive.

A common tactic is to create a sense of urgency about a stock, such as telling the investor it will rise in value any day so they need to invest quickly.

It is not only novice investors that get duped. Often experienced and sophisticated investors also fall victim to these scams.
In the majority of cases, the shares being sold are worthless and the boiler room vanishes, leaving the investor out of pocket.

There is a lot of information about boiler room scams on the internet. To protect yourself from these scams you should contact your local financial services regulator if you think you are being asked to invest in shares or other financial products by a boiler room.

Advance Fee Frauds
An advance fee fraud may take many factual forms but in essence it involves people being persuaded to advance sums of money in the hope of realising a significantly larger gain. The gain is, of course, never realised. One example is being contacted by someone asking for help in transferring money out of the country. This type of scam has targeted many people around the world. It is also sometimes called the 'Nigerian letter scam' as many of the scams originate from Nigeria.

The scam varies, but usually the victim will receive a letter, or more often, a fax or email offering a business 'proposal' or transaction. The persons writing may claim they are a government official, the widow of a government official, or from a charity or business group. In all cases, they promise a benefit or reward in return for help in offloading some cash or other commodity.
To ensure a 'hitch free transfer' of the benefit or reward, the scammers will often ask for bank account details. The scammers will then ask for payment of all sorts of 'advance fees' (e.g. customs, taxes, bribes) to facilitate the transfer. These fees are the real purpose of the scam, and may add up to tens of thousands of dollars. It is estimated that over US$5 billion from victims has been lost to scammers.

Sometimes the scammers use the names of reputable organisations to create the illusion that they are legitimate. An example is an email purporting to be from the DFSA, or from the past and present Governors of the DIFC. These emails offer to give investors alleged access to 'frozen/seized' funds. These types of emails or letters are the same as the advance fee fraud, just in a different form.

Letters have also been sent to people advertising homes for sale on the internet, pretending to be from interested purchasers. The letter goes on to ask for help in transferring money from the purchaser.

It is best NOT TO respond to any such email, fax or letter. There is a lot of information on the internet about advance fee frauds and you are encouraged to familiarise yourself with the various scams that are being perpetrated world wide.

Abu Dhabi Investments Authority Scam
Fraud Warning

The following information is designed to help members of the public protect themselves against fraudulent activity involving institutions or individuals claiming to represent, or offer products or services on behalf of, the Abu Dhabi Investment Authority (“ADIA”).

Established in 1976, ADIA is a globally diversified investment institution that is wholly owned by the Government of the Emirate of Abu Dhabi. ADIA does not provide any form of banking services to individuals or companies or serve as a representative of any financial institutions.

Under no circumstances would ADIA and its employees initiate emails or telephone calls requesting individuals to disclose or confirm their personal or financial information. Furthermore, should you be contacted by individuals or institutions purporting to be from ADIA, claiming to offer banking or other services, or requesting monetary deposits, or phishing for information such as account details, personal identification details and passwords, you should assume that these individuals or institutions are engaging in fraud or identity theft and should be reported to your local police authority.

ADIA’s official website operates only under one domain name, and is not connected with the hosts of any other websites that may look similar to its official website. You may access the ADIA website by typing the above domain name into the address bar of your browser, or by bookmarking the genuine website. We recommend that you do not access the ADIA website through hyperlinks provided in emails or websites from an unknown origin, internet search engines or pop-up windows.

If you receive any suspicious messages or identify any suspicious websites that purport to be related to ADIA, please email: [email protected].

Phone Scams

These ones seem to be rife these days and a lot stem around you winning money- remember if it sounds too good to be true it probably is and if they are telling you you've won something you haven't even entered!

Etisalat Money Win
You would receive a phone call usually from a local mobile number saying you have won x amount of money usually 200,000 Dhs or 500,000 Dhs in an Etisalat lucky number draw or something like that! They will then ask you to call them back... they often speak English, Arabic or Urdu.They then say to claim the prize you need to buy x amount (anything from 1,500 Dhs to 5,000 Dhs) of Etisalat pre paid cards and give them the pin numbers! You will then be able to get your money from Dubai islamic Bank (or a n other bank!) They also quote some nubers on your sim card- but the first 5 numbers of Etisalat Sim cards are all the same- this is to lull you into believing they are really from Etisalat.

Basically they are stealing phone credit that you have paid for for them! Sometimes they ask you to take your sim card in and out of your phone- don't know why! They will also say you have 10 minutes to do all this- putting the pressure on! Please don't fall for this one! They then resell the credit you have bought for them at a profit as Etisalat gives doscount on bulk card purchases- so that's how they make their money.

If there was such a competition Etisalat would have it all over their website and there would be ads on the radio and in magazines etc. They would not ask you to call them back either. Just put the phone down and report the number to Etisalat on 101 and they can disconnect it.

Here is what Etisalat say about it: If a caller asks you to go to a bank to receive the prize, it is a fraud. An Etisalat representative would request you to visit the head office in Abu Dhabi and at the premises, meet with an official personnel who would have their official ID card. Under no circumstances would an Etisalat employee ask you to transfer funds into your account as proof of your eligibility to claim a prize that you may have won.

The above may also take the form of an SMS message asking you to call a number- always call 101 first to double check if this is a scam or not.

This scam and variations of it have been going on for about 4 years- please don't fall for it! It is a global scam and happens in lots of countries in various different forms

Resources & Reporting

With mobile and email scams you can report them to the Dubai Police Electronic Crimes Unit: 04-2036212.

The AIDA scam can be reported to [email protected]
Remember to never give out personal details over the phone unless you are sure it is to a trusted source.

The Abu dhabi Police Department also has an E-Crimes unit which you can contact through their portal. Take me there>>

You can check local press who give out details of scam warnings and the official responses as well.

Call Etisalat on 101 to query anything suspicious and you can also call Al Ameen 800 4 888 if you are worried.

Confirming A Scam

Dubai Government also have a page on their website on how to avoid being scammed. Take Me There>>

There is information regarding fraud and combating it on the Abu Dhabi Ae portal. Take Me There>>

The DFSA (Dubai Financial Services Authority) issue updated scan warnings specific to Dubai. Take Me There>>

 Remember if something sounds too good to be true it probably is and nothing in life is free! Keep smart and keep safe!