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Hind Al Soulia - Riyadh - By Hassan Cheruppa
JEDDAH — The Saudi Arabian Monetary Authority (SAMA) has warned bank customers — citizens and expatriates — in the Kingdom not to fall victim to financial frauds being perpetrated by scammers.
The warning comes after SAMA, the central bank, found out that a number of fraudulent calls and text messages are being sent by unknown entities and persons with an ulterior motive to gain access to personal information or banking data of customers.
Scammers impersonating bank officials use phone numbers or electronic links that do not belong to any bank or financial institution. These gangs also resort to phishing, sending emails and text messages to customers, which appear to be from a bank, seeking their login details.
SAMA reiterated that it does not keep any deposits or funds belonging to individual customers and it is also neither conducting financial operations for them nor on their behalf according to the banking regulations. The central bank underscored the need to maintain personal and banking data as fully confidential and intact, and not disclose them to any unknown parties or persons whose goal is to gain access to the personal and confidential data of the targeted people in order to steal their money or to misuse their bank accounts for illegal operations.
The monetary authority called on bank customers to take information only from the official channels of the bodies regulating the Kingdom’s financial and investment sectors and inform the competent security authorities about such fraudulent attempts.
There has been a spurt in cases of scammers attempting to steal money from the bank accounts of customers through fraudulent means since the outbreak of the coronavirus pandemic. Saudi Gazette has learned from several customers who somehow managed to save their money after falling into the trap of these gangs who contacted them to obtain their personal ID and banking details impersonating as senior bank officials.
The modus operandi of these professional rackets is almost similar. First, they collect phone numbers of customers and then contact them over the phone, saying that their bank account or ATM card requires immediate updating as part of the pandemic regulatory measures. The caller introduces himself as a senior official from the headquarters of the bank and then reads out the first four-digit numbers of the ATM card, asking to give the remaining digits simply for confirmation.
When an innocent customer gives the number, the caller then asks him to check whether he has received a text message on his phone from the bank in order to authenticate his credentials. When the customer receives an instant SMS from the bank, he presumes that the caller is from the bank. When a customer innocently shares his login details, it facilitates the scammers to gain access to his account and empty it.
Saudi Gazette staffers had the same experience from these rackets recently. Three purported bank officials spoke with a staffer, one after another, for about half an hour. The first call in English was from an expatriate while the two others introduced themselves as senior Saudi officials and spoke fluently in English and Arabic in the local accent.
First, they asked for the ATM number and then for the Jeddah branch code number. But when they asked for the account number and the three-digit secret code, he smelt something fishy. So he told them that he would go personally to his bank branch to update the card if it is required. At that time, the callers started threatening him, saying that his ATM card will be made inoperative.
When he disconnected the call, they continued calling him again and again with threats. The staffer later lodged a complaint with the local bank whose manager told that the complaint will be passed over to the bank headquarters to carry out a probe into the incident.
Speaking to Saudi Gazette, the local bank officials cautioned customers not to reveal any information whatsoever regarding their personal ID or bank accounts and bank card numbers to anyone over the phone or via online, and that they have to contact their respective bank branches for updating or exchanging any information related to their bank accounts or credit/debit cards.
Bank authorities have alerted customers to be extra cautious and not to fall into the trap of these scammers. They said that losing login details leaves victims more susceptible to future scams too, apart from losing all money in accounts. The scammers would use their banking card details for more thefts such as purchasing expensive goods on installment schemes. Customers are urged to immediately contact their bank if they think scammers might have gained access to their personal or banking information.
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