Scammers turn up heat on would-be victims by calling through mobile apps. Tactics include ‘competitions’ and ‘prize winning.’
Although various kinds of scams through phone calls, text messages, emails and other media have been around for decades, people still believe in these scammers and fall in their trap. Email scams were the first attempts at electronic fraud before there were smartphones. Scams took many different forms. Some emails promoted money laundering. Other were supposedly sent by multinational companies telling the respondents they had won a luxury car or a cash prize and demanding their personal information including contacts and bank details.
Over time, the scammers changed their tactics. The emails shifted to humanitarian stories calling for help and offering huge sums of money in return. Senders usually presented themselves as relatives of a former president or dictator who was killed or had died, claiming to have millions of dollars but unable to access it and looking for an intermediary. They requested bank account details to transfer the money for a 10 percent commission of the amount. Other senders claimed they had inherited a few million dollars and also needed to transfer it for a certain percentage, as they live in a war zone and can’t handle the money themselves.
But now many scammers try their luck using phone calls, especially with What’sApp and Viber. People in Kuwait are regularly targeted with such scams, usually people calling to say they’ve won a prize and to collect need to pay a small fee or give over their banking details. Here are a few of the scams circulating in the region currently.
Merisel, 30, received a phone call recently from a number starting with the code +22. The caller claimed to be an employee of Dubai Duty Free, telling her she had won $20,000 in a monthly raffle draw. “The caller told me to go to the nearest exchange office to receive my prize, but before doing this, I had to buy two Cash-U cards and send him the serial numbers. When I told him that I hadn’t traveled to Dubai, he insisted that my phone number had won in the raffle, and urged me to go immediately to the exchange office. I told him I would, but I didn’t go as I knew it was a scam since I hadn’t traveled to Dubai,” she told Kuwait Times.
Abdulhadi, a 55-year-old expat, received three messages last month offering him a master’s degree in various majors including engineering from an international university without studying, for just a small fee. “I didn’t even bother searching if the university was real or fake, as I’m already old and not interested in any degree. Also I know it’s a scam, as engineering can’t be learned through distance learning,” he remarked.
Farah, 45, received a call from an African man two months ago, warning her of the great danger she might be facing if she didn’t pay a sorcerer to break a magic spell cast against her. “The guy claimed to be a sorcerer and said some people who hate me have cast a spell on me that will soon bring on me or somebody from my family death or serious injuries. He asked for only $3,000 to dispel the witchcraft and rescue me. I told him I will try to collect the money and hung up. Initially, I was scared as he mentioned some events that had happened to me, although I knew these were randomly said. But I realized it was a scam and didn’t pay him anything and blocked his number,” she said.
Ghanima received a message through the Internet app Viber claiming she had won the main prize of some competition – a brand new vehicle. “The sender asked for my name, civil ID number and bank account details. I told my son about it, who warned me not to respond to this message as it’s a scam,” she noted.
Other people have received calls through various applications, with the callers claiming they are calling from a telecommunication company to inform them they have won a prize in a draw and requesting their personal information to transfer the money to their accounts. All banks in Kuwait keep warning their clients through messages and emails not to respond to any caller or sender demanding their bank account numbers or passwords. Yet the scammers keep trying, and gullible people keep believing in them.
By Nawara Fattahova