A Filipina expat has fallen victim to an online banking fraud doing the rounds in Dubai. Saira Sepulvida Bilog, who works as an administrative assistant for a private firm in the city, was left counting her losses after she became yet another victim to a bank scam.
In what is said to be typical modus operandi for scamsters, Bilog said it all started when she received a call on April 25 (Thursday), from someone claiming to be from Emirates NBD Bank.
“The number is still in my records (056 937 4561). The person said my Emirates ID was not up-to-date in the bank records and that had to be done as soon as possible, else the card would be blocked. I was in a meeting and I did not have time to double check for facts.
I checked with a colleague and showed her the message I received from this number. She said she was not familiar of any such thing and asked me to double check on the authenticity of the message,” she said.
This operation seems very similar to an online scam Gulf News reported in April after Dubai Police issued a warning to residents about websites linked to emails or text messages from fraudsters fishing for bank details.
Bilog however, remembered she had submitted her Emirates ID details late to the bank. And so she thought this could be a genuine call.
She sent her details and soon received an authentication code from the same message thread which also read that her ID had been approved and was ready for collection.
The fraudster called Bilog again from the same number and asked her to upload the Emirates ID details immediately to her bank account. She said she was in a meeting and asked him if she could do it later. He refused, saying the authentication code will expire and that it has to be updated immediately. What is more, he offered to do the same for her. “I was busy and I thought he was a genuine person. I trusted him and gave him my bank details.”
“He asked me for my bank user name and even ran the security questions which I had listed in my online account. I answered all my security questions. After the call ended, I went on with my meeting and did not bother to check my messages.”
When Bilog checked her phone after her meeting, she was horrified to find that the fraudster had swindled off Dh21,700 from her account. Her bank account was emptied to the tune of Dh12,700 and credit card used for cash advances up to Dh9,000. The fraudster made a series of nine Dh1,000 cash advances from Bilog’s credit card and transferred the amounts to his account.
“The beneficiary account carries the name Shahaid Mahmoo. These cash advances have also incurred me fees of Dh935.55 plus finance charges of Dh96.44,” she said.
In total, she has lost Dh22,731.99 in just a matter of an hour.
Futile attempts to get money back
Bilog said she made a desperate call to Emirates NBD to block her account, but it was in vain as the bank informed her that it was too late.
The next thing she did was head to the nearest police station and register a complaint with the authority. A case has been filed with Dubai Police (case number – 2019/13456). Another complaint has been filed with Emirates NBD as well.
According to Bilog, the bank informed her little can be done as it is her fault for giving away her account details to an unknown person.
“I have tried asking the bank and the insurance provider to reimburse my credit card transactions, but my requests have been rejected. Firstly, I've filed a dispute for these transactions with ENBD and was rejected too as a staff told me this dispute should not have been filed in the first place as this was a result of a fraud. I requested the bank to waive the cash advance fees and the finance charges attached to it, that [request] too was rejected."
In yet another desperate attempt, Bilog has asked the bank for a settlement plan wherein she will not incur any more charges or interests on these amounts, but another bank staff informed she has to settle the default payment first and only then, the bank will discuss settlement plans with her.
“I am likely to incur at least Dh230 late payment fees on this”, Bilog said.
As I was talking to Dubai Police, they informed me that I would not have to pay for the credit card as all banks in the UAE have insurance for such transactions. I tried to ask the bank about this but the staff said my card (U by Emaar) does not cover insurance for such fraudulent transactions.”
Bilog has lost all her money and savings, with practically no recourse left to get her money back. "This was my hard-earned money and I have lost it all. I hope no one does the mistake like I have done", she said.