BIT­COIN SCAM FUNDED LAV­ISH LIFESTYLE FOR FRAUD­STER

7 Days in Dubai - - FRONT PAGE - By Ali Al Shouk @alial­shouk ali.shouk@7days.ae

A scam artist conned three young men out of hun­dreds of thou­sands of dirhams worth of Bit­coins then spent the cash of liv­ing a life of lux­ury, Dubai Po­lice have said.

The Asian man, whose na­tion­al­ity was not stated by po­lice, emp­tied the men’s Bit­coin ac­count of Dhs375,000 af­ter pos­ing as an in­ter­ested buyer.

Bit­coin is a vir­tual cur­rency that can be traded or used to buy goods or ser­vices. Po­lice said its use is dif­fi­cult to track.

The scam be­gan when he set up an In­sta­gram page that made him look like a wealthy man. Gen­eral Khamis Mat­tar Al Muzaina, Di­rec­tor of Dubai Po­lice, said the trio were con­vinced and let him log into their ac­count to check the Bit­coin’s value.

He said: “The Asian man started chat­ting with them on the in­ter­net and of­fered to buy the Bit­coins at more than the ac­tual price on the mar­ket.

“He posed as a busi­ness­man who owned lux­ury cars and watches to gain their trust. The man in fact was un­em­ployed.”

The trio were due to ex­change the vir­tual cur­rency for cash in a Dubai ho­tel but the scammer called in ad­vance and asked to log into their ac­count.

Muzaina said: “They gave him the user­name and pass­word and within min­utes he wired the money to two ac­counts then shut down his phone.”

The three men, from an un­named GCC coun­try, ap­proached Dubai Po­lice and of­fi­cers de­cided to use the same trick to try snare the con­man. Muzaina said: “We cre­ated an ac­count for a young man, posted pic­tures of him look­ing wealthy and put up a mes­sage that he was look­ing to sell 1,000 Bit­coins.” He said the con­man got in touch and they ar­rested him. Colonel Salim bin Salmin, Deputy Di­rec­tor of the Cy­berCrimes De­part­ment at Dubai Po­lice, said they dis­cov­ered what the con­man had spent the money on. He said: “He con­fessed that he came to Dubai in April and was liv­ing in shared apart­ments.” Once he stole the Dhs375,000 he moved into an apart­ment on Sheikh Zayed Road. Salmin said: “He was liv­ing a lux­ury life, en­joy­ing the money he stole. He drove jet-skis in the morn­ing and quad-bikes in the desert at night. He bought ex­pen­sive watches and sent them to his home coun­try.” Salmin said the case is the first the force has han­dled in­volv­ing Bit­coin. He said: “It’s hard to trace the money. There is no le­gal frame­work for it and UAE res­i­dents are not fa­mil­iar with it or how to use it for trad­ing.” The man has been re­ferred to Dubai Pub­lic Pros­e­cu­tion and faces fraud charges.

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