A RENEWED warning has been issued to consumers in Bahrain to beware of e-commerce fraudsters and to better educate themselves about the best ways to protect their hard-earned money.

The Interior Ministry’s anti-economic crimes directorate’s financial crimes division director Major Mohammed Al Abdulla, speaking on the second day of the Arab Consumer Protection Forum staged at the Diplomat Radisson Blu Hotel, Residence and Spa, urged people to listen to official advice and keep up-to-date with the latest social media and online skulduggery.

“Most of the scams come from organised groups that are based abroad,” he said during the session titled ‘Consumer protection in e-commerce and the digital market’.

“They send someone to the country whose job it is to learn about the main applications that consumers like to use. In Bahrain’s case, BenefitPay is very popular, and it is linked to people’s bank accounts, making it an ideal target.

“Of course, over time, as other applications and websites gain popularity, they will start being utilised as well.”

Maj Al Abdulla warns that fraudsters also target cryptocurrency users in the kingdom, urging people to be very careful of getting themselves involved in any ‘investment opportunity’ coming from an unknown source.

“If they know that a person is into cryptocurrency, they will try to make contact with them,” he explained. “They may not outright offer bogus opportunities but rather gain their trust over the course of time.

“Then they entice people to invest a certain amount and get them to click on a link where they unknowingly give up all their private information. At first, everything seems to be normal, and they may get dividends from investments, but then they suddenly stop.

“That is when they realise they were conned, and that there was no such business venture to begin with.”

Maj Al Abdulla highlighted some methods at which people can protect themselves from such fraudsters. “Do not share your private details to anyone, especially not an OTP, the one-time password – a temporary, secure PIN-code sent to you via SMS or email,” he said.

“It does not matter whether it is a bank, BenefitPay or an eWallet, nobody will ask you for your bank details by phone.

“Also, do not click on any links, not even if they have your IBAN number or CPR number, they cannot do anything with just that information.

“If you are a victim of scams, time is of the essence, report it immediately to the authorities, and inform your bank to freeze all transactions. If the money goes overseas, it will be very difficult to recover.”

He also encouraged people to join the Financial and Cybercrimes Whatsapp groups, available in Arabic and English, which constantly update people on scams currently doing the rounds in the kingdom.

He stated that the Interior Ministry is also keeping up to date with foreign cons to keep people better informed before the illegal operators attempt enticing innocents in the kingdom.

People can join the group by using the link in the instagram bio @acees_bh.

Industry and Commerce Ministry e-commerce director Maram Almahmeed also spoke as part of the panel and said the ministry team was dedicated to protecting consumers online.

People looking to do online transactions can visit mall.bh, an e-commerce gateway that lists legitimate online businesses, as well as provides business reviews to give consumers confidence.

The two-day Arab Consumer Protection Forum concluded yesterday with three sessions in total, the other two being ‘Empowering consumers: improving access to redress and dispute resolution’ and ‘Way forward on enhancing consumer protection in the Arab region’.

The event was organised by the Industry and Commerce Ministry in co-operation with the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Western Asia (ESCWA) and the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD).

It aimed to enhance economic growth and governance in the Arab region, promote collaboration, highlight international best practices and generate concrete recommendations for future activities to enhance consumer protection policies.


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