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Living in the UAE

Scams in the UAE and How to Avoid Them

You’re convinced that you would never break the rules? The UAE has a lot of very strict laws that expats often would not expect, but also impresses with a rather low crime rate. Still, it is not uncommon for expats to become the target of scams. Learn more about how to recognize and avoid them!

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While expats hardly ever fall victim to violent crimes in Dubai or Abu Dhabi, they are more commonly the victims of scams. In fact, con artists are just looking for gullible foreigners they can scam out of their money. That’s why you should be especially careful when dealing with people asking for help or offering the deal of a lifetime. Read on for an overview of the most common scams in the Emirates.

Street Scams in a Variety of Flavors

Street scams are usually just sophisticated ways of begging which are very common but come in many different forms. Many expats have reported that they have been approached by a man with an (often fake) injury who is begging for money to pay his hospital bills. He usually has no interest in being taken to a pharmacy or a hospital and he is also not the only one pulling off this particular scam.

Another common one is the family who has broken down at the side of the road or run out of gas and asks for a small amount of money for the repairs or to fill up the tank. They usually tell people that they are from another emirate or another country even and just want to get home. They tug on your heart strings and make a fortune that way.

The “woman with a sick child” scam is often directed at female expats. A woman will approach you and tell you that her child is in hospital in another city or emirate. She will ask for money to get there and promises to pay you back the next day. She might even give out her phone number to prove how serious she is about paying you back but you’ll never see that money again.

Best Dressed, Worst Choice

While this is technically also a street scam, the suit salesman will not try to beg money from you or rob you. He will approach you in a car park, telling you that he represents an Italian designer and has just finished presenting suits at a fashion exhibition or trade fair. He insists that he cannot or doesn’t want to take the entire stock back to Italy. You might think that you are making the deal of a lifetime, buying a designer suit for 400 AED, but just like handbags sold out of the trunk of a car, these suits are cheap imitations and not worth their money.

Don’t Come and Knock on My Door

Other common occurrences are women who knock on your door and hold their hands out to you begging for money. They usually hold a crying baby or toddler to pull on your heart strings. Often, a group of two or three women hit the residential buildings with their kids, trying to make a lot of money. This is why it is always a good idea to look through the peephole before opening the door.

Claim Your Win and Lose Some Money

Phone scams are also very common and usually involve the promise of having won a lot of money. It is very common, for instance, to receive a phone call from an alleged employee of Etisalat or DU, assuring you that you won in a lucky number draw. In order to claim your win, you have to buy a certain amount of pre-paid phone cards from said company and provide them with the pin numbers. You are then supposed to claim your win at a local bank. They might even quote the first digits of your sim card, however, the first five digits of Etisalat sim cards are all the same. In the end, you will never see any money but they will steal your phone credit.

This scam or variations thereof have been going on for a few years now. The phone provider Etisalat has warned their customers to err on the side of safety when they get these type of calls and confirm them with the provider first. Respectable providers like Etisalat or DU would not ask you to purchase anything or claim your prize at a local bank. Instead, they would ask you to visit their offices where an employee can verify the win.

The Missed Call

This phone scam is based on missed calls, usually from an international number. The scammers will call, often at night, and let the phone ring very briefly so that you are forced to call them back. Once you call back, you will be told that you won a raffle or lottery. They will ask you to transfer money to them to release your prize or to give them the details of your passport and/or credit card. The goal is to clone or take money from your credit card or to steal your identity.

So, before you call back, check if you know the number or if you know someone in the country that the call is coming from.

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How to Deal With Scams

Anyone can become a victim of a scam. However, there are some measures you can take to be informed and protect yourself from losing money. Always be sceptic! When you get a deal which seems to be too good to be true — they often are. If you are not sure, do some research, find out if other expats got a similar offer or had a similar experience.

Moreover, there are authorities you can contact when in doubt. You can always report crimes and scams to the police in your city. If a phone scammer identifies himself as an employee of Etisalat or DU, you should definitely also notify the respective phone company. The State Audit Institution is another authority where you can report cases of fraud. In any case, the best way to protect yourself from negative experiences is by being extra careful and most of all vigilant.

Updated on: December 11, 2019
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