Gulf News

Con­men use fake VIP ac­counts to trap vic­tims on so­cial me­dia

They build up fol­low­ers us­ing celebrity pro­files and grad­u­ally get them to part with money

- BY ALI AL SHOUK Staff Re­porter

Dubai Po­lice have warned res­i­dents to be cau­tious when be­friend­ing peo­ple on so­cial me­dia plat­forms due to in­creas­ing in­ci­dents of scam­sters us­ing false iden­ti­ties and steal­ing iden­ti­ties of pop­u­lar per­son­al­i­ties.

The po­lice have launched an aware­ness cam­paign on so­cial me­dia plat­forms, with ed­u­ca­tional clips and posters, to crack down on fake ac­counts. It will run till Jan­uary 4, 2019.

Ad­dress­ing a press con­fer­ence at Dubai Po­lice head­quar­ters yes­ter­day, Bri­gadier Ja­mal Salem Al Jalaf, di­rec­tor of the Crim­i­nal In­ves­ti­ga­tion De­part­ment (CID), said: “Most of the fake ac­counts are on In­sta­gram, Face­book and Twit­ter plat­forms. They put up a pic­ture of a VIP and post news and ac­tiv­i­ties re­lated to the per­son to get more fol­low­ers.

“They even­tu­ally de­ceive these fol­low­ers into pay­ing money for a so-called no­ble cause such as help­ing needy peo­ple or refugees.”

Al Jalaf said the scam­sters trick their fol­low­ers into trans­fer­ring money to them.

Po­lice have re­ceived 679

com­plaints about fake ac­counts since 2015. About 126 com­plaints were logged this year and po­lice blocked the so­cial me­dia ac­counts con­cerned, in co­op­er­a­tion with the Telecom­mu­ni­ca­tion and Reg­u­la­tory Au­thor­ity (TRA).

Colonel Mo­ham­mad Aqeel Ahli, deputy di­rec­tor of CID, said that the fake ac­counts’ cre­ators cap­i­talised on the gen­eros­ity of the Gulf com­mu­nity and UAE res­i­dents, who are look­ing to help peo­ple even out­side the coun­try.

Au­to­mated sys­tem

Mean­while, Mo­ham­mad Al Zarouni, di­rec­tor of poli­cies and pro­grammes at TRA, said that they have an au­to­mated sys­tem to iden­tify fake ac­counts on so­cial me­dia, and have blocked thou­sands of them. “Since the sys­tem was in­tro­duced in the sec­ond half of 2017, we man­aged to block 5,000 fake ac­counts. Ac­cord­ing to stud­ies, the in­ter­net user in the UAE spends two hours and 56 min­utes per day on so­cial me­dia,” he said.

Butti Al Falasi, di­rec­tor of se­cu­rity aware­ness at Dubai Po­lice, said that most of the fake ac­count cre­ators are be­tween 30 and 35 years of age, and they op­er­ate from out­side the coun­try.

“The po­lice are fo­cus­ing more on re­duc­ing the fake ac­counts by ed­u­cat­ing the so­ci­ety and mon­i­tor­ing the lat­est meth­ods that sus­pects use to de­ceive vic­tims. We will have work­shops so peo­ple know what to do,” Al Falasi said.

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