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Wed 1 Jul 2020 05:53 PM

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Dubai Police arrest 20 gangs over social media, dating app scams

Married couple also arrested after they deceived social media users by posing as a recruitment agency for domestic helpers

Dubai Police arrest 20 gangs over social media, dating app scams

Dubai Police apprehended 47 African suspects - ten women and 37 men.

Dubai Police arrested 20 African gangs operating blackmailing and cyber extortion criminal operations from the emirate, as well as fraudulent activities against social media users.

General Khalil Ibrahim Al Mansouri, assistant commander-in-chief for Criminal Investigation Affairs at Dubai Police, added that they also arrested a married couple who deceived social media users by posing as a recruitment agency for domestic helpers.

Brigadier Jamal Al Jallaf, director of CID at Dubai Police, said they received a reliable tip-off about some African gangs who lured men by posting and sharing photos of girls on social media platforms and via e-mails.

"When the victim arrives at the specified address, he would find a different girl than the one he had chatted with online," Al Jallaf said.

"The gang would threaten victims and take their belongings including mobile phones and credit cards after they take pictures of the men in indecent positions and threaten to post their videos online and share it with the victims' contacts if they report the matter to the authorities.

"The victims would end up sharing their mobile phone passcodes and credit card security pins, and paying huge amounts to avoid being defamed online and among their family members," he added.

Lt. Col. Abdullah Mohammed, head of Criminal Investigation Department (CID) at Dubai Police, said a team was formed immediately and a thorough plan was set up to apprehend the 47 African suspects - ten women and 37 men. He confirmed that comprehensive investigations led to the arrest of suspects in Dubai and in a nearby emirate, who had been renting flats under fake IDs in an attempt to evade capture.

Fraudster couple

The second fraud case involved a married Arab couple, who claimed that they could bring domestic helpers into the country, despite the shutdown of airports because of the completed National Sterlisaition Programme. A total of 46 people were tricked by the online fraudsters who lured victims with expedited procedures for only AED3,000 in recruitment fees. 

"During the National Sterilisation Programme, the Smart Police Station (SPS) received several anonymous reports about defrauding victims and posing as representatives of a labour recruitment agency promising victims with domestic helpers," Brigadier Jamal Al Jallaf, the director of CID explained.

"Task teams were formed to investigate the reports and track down the suspects with the aid of available digital forensics tools. Soon after, our investigation teams gathered the necessary information and pinned down the married fraudsters. 

"The couple confessed to their crimes and revealed that they had been scamming families across the emirates by exploiting the suspension of labour recruitment during the National Sterilization Programme and taking advantage of people's need of help during the quarantine period," he added.

AI-backed task forces

‘Operation Shadow’ was the name given for the work that led to the arrest of the gangs, and involved the use of the latest technology, including AI.

"Our officers keep abreast of the latest crime prevention methods including harnessing the artificial intelligence capabilities of the Criminal Data Analysis Centre of Dubai Police to track down criminals and foil their bids to harm our society," Al Mansouri said.

According to Al Mansouri, since its inauguration by Dubai Police's chief Lt. General Abdullah Khalifa Al Marri, the centre has helped the force identifying hotspots of interest and conducting comprehensive crime prediction studies to develop solutions and improve early intervention methods.

Staying vigilant

Captain Abdullah Al Shehhi, deputy director of the cybercrime department at the General Department of Criminal Investigation, warned members of the public not to fall prey into the trap of online conversations with strangers, and not to be lured by services they provide or respond to suspicious e-mails.

He warned the public against clicking on hyperlinks sent to smartphones, especially via WhatsApp, and said people should activate the two-step verification feature that prevents criminals from stealing data.

Al Shehhi also urged members of the public to report suspicious accounts and online extortion to the e-crime.ae platform by Dubai Police, noting that received reports remain confidential.

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