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How Dubai Scams are Giving the U.A.E. a Bad Name

Posted On   date10/03/2014

How Dubai Scams are Giving the U.A.E. a Bad Name

Prime minister of the United Arab Emirates, Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, has a goal: to make Dubai the most-frequented tourist destination in the world. He is on a good path. By 2015, an anticipated 15 million travelers are expected to visit Dubai. With world-famous parks, zoos, beaches and a booming conference industry, Dubai is quickly making a name for itself as a top global tourist spot. One potential pitfall for the UAE, however, is the rise of scammers that prey upon unsuspecting visitors and Internet users around the world. Whether the scamming is done when the visitors are on the UAE soil, or in advance of their trips, it is a big problem that could undercut the success of tourist and investment initiatives.

Countries like South Africa, Nigeria, Ghana, Romania, China and Malaysia know all too well the harm that can be done to a country once it earns a worldwide reputation for fraud and internet scams.  The U.A.E. is aware of the rising scam cases, and they’re trying to get control of it before the situation worsens.

The Dubai Financial Services Authority (DFSA) is always on the lookout for scammers and points out some of the most common swindles in its borders. They include some of the following:

Cold calling. When a scammer in Dubai calls a person from another country, the action is out of the control of the DFSA. Questionable jurisdiction is what makes these international scams so prevalent. If you receive a call from someone in Dubai claiming to want to sell you something travel related, like a time share or discounted travel tickets, take down the information and then run a check on the company using the DFSA’s public register of licensed companies and services.  This is the easiest, best way to weed out any scammers from legitimate companies.  In fact, it’s best to ignore all cold calls of any origin.

Fake bank emails. If you are planning a trip to Dubai and receive an email asking to repeat your banking information, or go to a link to verify it, do not fall for the trap. Instead, contact the travel company directly and ask if there is something else it needs from you to make your trip happen. Bank email scams are tricky because they often look real based on correct logos, names of employees and links to the real website. Any request through email for financial information is an immediate red flag, however, so be aware of these prevalent date phishing scams.  Some Dubai scams never even mention Dubai, so be careful.

Ponzi schemes. Though the name for these financial schemes originated in America, do not be fooled. Ponzi schemes are alive and well all over the world, even in Dubai. The basics of this scam are that the scammer promises potential investors a great return – but in reality has no product or investment in place at all. The scammer uses the money from later investors to pay off earlier investors, eventually cashing out and often disappearing. The best way to avoid a Ponzi scam is to run a global asset search on any places you are considering investing. This is true for investments in the U.S., Dubai and all over the world.

Investment scams. Investment scams are booming in the UAE thanks to the lure of large returns and a promising international market, with low taxes and many advantages to foreigners seeking to invest.  The tricky part is verifying which investments are legitimate and which are fraudulent, and distinguishing between the two is becoming harder than ever.  International due diligence is by far the best tool to protect yourself.  If you’re dealing with someone in the UAE, hire a professional to verify.

Online dating scams. Many illegal and legal immigrants in Dubai have landed a job and then lost it, or have struggled to make ends meet in the high cost world of the UAE.  As a result, many seek opportunities elsewhere, both legal and sometimes illegal.  One of the ways more and more crooks are finding to pay the bills is by conducting romance scams and online dating fraud.  If you’ve met someone online and the person claims to be traveling or working in the United Arab Emirates, this is a major red flag.

There will always be scammers who cash in on the good nature of people who are interested in places like Dubai, so it is important to stay vigilant. Whether you run a basic internet search on the company reaching out or hire a Dubai private investigator, always do your homework and be safe!

Have you been to Dubai? What was your favorite experience there?

C. Wright
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