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Fri 8 Aug 2014 10:05 AM

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African cyber scams offering to buy kidneys target the Gulf

Criminals pose as doctors paying up to $130k for organs, in a bid to extract personal, bank details

African cyber scams offering to buy kidneys target the Gulf
(Gatty Images - Photo for illustrative purpose only)

African cyber criminals posing as doctors offering to pay up to $130,000 to buy live kidneys, as part of a ploy to extract personal and bank account details from gullible victims, have been targeting Dubai in recent months and medical and internet experts have warned online users to be vigilant of the scams.

In recent weeks several online users have posted comments on the Arabian Business homepage and Facebook account offering readers the chance to sell their kidneys in return for up to $130,000.

“You are welcome to UBTH Specialist Hospital, Here you will get the maximum satisfaction you need and your satisfaction is our priority. I also want to use this opportunity to introduce myself, My name is Dr Watson Kyle, I am the representative Doctor of the above specialist here we are specialized in kidney transplantation and treatment of all manner of sickness and diseases. I want you to know that you are in the right place where you can sell your kidney okay,” one posting claimed.

Another, claiming to be from a Dr Howard, offered more direct terms and conditions: “You should healthy, non-smoker and not be addicted to drink, you must be over 18 years before they can sell their kidney. The operation will take place in India, the clinic will pay travel expenses and other medical tests to be performed. It will pay $130,000. You will be paid first payment of $80,000 before surgery and the rest will be paid after surgery.”

In all cases, and in some emails received from readers and members of staff, the posters, posing as medical doctors but using generic Gmail or Hotmail addresses, went on to quickly ask for personal details such as parents names, age, sex, date-of-birth, telephone number, professional details, monthly income levels, relationship status, blood group, genotype and full address.

Once communications had been opened, potential victims were asked to supply copies of identity cards or passports and active bank account details, in order to process the alleged payments.

These latest scams are simply new variations on the traditional 419-style fraud, which generally involves promising the victim a significant sum of money but which requires them to offer up personal and bank details in order to process initial payments. The 419 refers to the article of the Nigerian Criminal Code dealing with the fraud, where many of the email scams originate from.

“So-called ‘419’ scams are easily recognised by their bad grammar and outlandish claims, both of which are used to weed out the not-gullible-enough. If you can ignore the obvious holes in 419 stories, you are ripe for plucking,” Alexandru Catalin Cosoi, chief security strategist at global internet security company Bitdefender, told Arabian Business.

“However, few are, so scammers resort to the shotgun approach – hiring a botnet to blast waves of scam e-mail across the globe, possibly up to a few million in a day, then sift out the resulting potential marks, which are usually very few.

“A very simple defence (past having a decent spam-filter) is to never open email from unknown persons with subject lines designed to grab attention. Moreover, do not volunteer personally identifying information, to anyone, ever, especially not via email. If requested, do your due diligence – verify the existence of the person and their organisation and decide if the risk is worth the possible harm, not the possible reward… [However], if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.”

Taken at face value, Dr. Yassin Ibrahim M. El-Shahat, chief medical officer at Burjeel Hospital in Abu Dhabi, pointed out that the sale of organs is illegal in the UAE under Law 15 issued by the late Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan in 1993.

“This law is organising the process of organ transplant in the UAE. This law prohibits completely the selling and buying of organs,” he said.

“There are many people offering to sell organs and we are not involved with them. Some countries are doing this business but we are against it completely,” he said, pointing out that only patients’ family relatives are allowed to donate live organs and the processing of organs is governed by the 2008 Declaration of Istanbul on Organ Trafficking and Transplant Tourism, which all six GCC countries have signed up to.

“We are not encouraging anybody to do this for money… We don’t advice [selling organs] as is it done in an unhealthy atmosphere and subjects the donor to danger, especially when it is done in a small hospital or clinic,” he added.

* Have you been targeted by, or engaged with, online criminals operating this or similar cyber scams?

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