The Central Bank of the UAE (CBUAE), UAE Banks Federation (UBF), Abu Dhabi Police, and Dubai Police have joined forces to launch the first national fraud awareness campaign to educate and protect consumers from financial cybercrime and fraud, particularly in light of the increased use of digital banking services during the Covid-19 pandemic.
Abdulhamid Saeed, Governor of the Central Bank of the UAE, said the fraud awareness campaign, underscored by a series of interactive and educational materials, is aimed at "informing consumers about the proliferation of phishing activities" while enabling them to stay alert.
AbdulAziz Al Ghurair, Chairman of UAE Banks Federation, said the banking sector's digital transformation and widespread implementation of online solutions has increased both the complexity and magnitude of financial fraud and cybercrime across the globe. "This is a serious threat to society that must be addressed, particularly under these challenging circumstances where fraudsters are taking advantage of the fear and uncertainty created by the Covid-19 outbreak."
Al Ghurair said with the launch of this joint campaign UBF seeks not only to equip the public with the knowledge and resources they need to protect themselves from fraud, but also disrupt the criminal networks that are targeting UAE residents.
In the UAE, there was a year-on-year increase of 18.2 per cent in fraud cases in 2018 in line with a similar surge in cases of fraud worldwide as digital solutions continue to disrupt the banking industry and fraudsters becoming increasingly sophisticated. In 2019, fraud cases in the UAE increased.
According to a study, the damages caused by cybercrime are poised to double amid the Coronavirus outbreak. The Official Cybercrime Report published by Cybersecurity Ventures says cybercrime will cost the world $6 trillion annually by 2021, up from $3 trillion in 2015. The trend also represents one of the biggest transfers of economic wealth in history.
Lieutenant General Abdullah Khalifa Al Marri, Lieutenant General of Dubai Police, encouraged all UAE residents to remain vigilant during these uncertain times, and exercise extra caution when sharing any confidential information. "These include account numbers, bank card numbers, passwords, personal identification codes and security codes behind cards, with the need not to be deceived by fraudulent phone calls and messages that may target customers via SMS or social media."
Major General Maktoum Ali Al Sharifi, Director-General of Abu Dhabi Police, said during 2019 to February this year, Abu Dhabi Police arrested 13 criminal gangs made up of 142 fraudsters involved in cyber attacks. "The fraudsters were posing as bank employees and asking customers to disclose their bank details and personal information to steal their money."
"Globally, fraud and cybercrime are expected to rise further. And with hundreds of millions of people mandated to stay at home to curb the spread of the coronavirus, Covid-19 related fraud is also expected to climb as fraudsters exploit people's fear and anxiety during these difficult times. Common scams are targeting victims via email, SMS, phone and social media, with fraudsters posing as genuine organizations including government entities, banks, and healthcare providers to trick victims into disclosing personal or financial information. In the UAE, the CBUAE has urged the public to be wary of potential fraudulent activities using its name, and warns that there will be a rise in these types of scams during the coronavirus outbreak," UBF said.
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