Duped in Dubai, Scammed in Sharjah!

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Why do people fall for scams? Is it because they are gullible and stupid? Or is it that scam artists are really the smarter ones amongst us? We have witnessed countless scams and hoaxes in the past – Bernie Madoff’s Ponzi scheme to Lehmann Brothers collapse and the Loch Ness monster to UFO sightings.

Closer to home in the UAE, plenty of us have received emails from our dear Nigerian brother who has got millions of dollars in his bank account but desperately needs our pitiful 100 dirhams to unlock the treasure and give it to you – the ‘chosen one’ – a share from the bounty. Surely you must have got a ‘call’ from the ‘HR Manager of Etisalat’, Mr. Abdulla Al Emirati Bin Arabi, ironically asking you to send him an Etisalat calling card. Do people actually fall for this? Unfortunately, the answer is YES.

Scammers and swindlers succeed because every person secretly believes that he/she is destined to win the lottery someday. It is just a matter of time before he/she hits the jackpot. Not that people are inherently greedy and don’t want to work for a living but the progress up the ladder is slow and painstaking. Maybe that one raffle coupon he/she has religiously entered in the LULU draw is the path to glory (or in this case a less glamorous Nissan Sunny). But people do not want to give up hope. This is also why shows like “Who wants to be a Millionaire” is still being dubbed into many languages.

Job scams are still a thriving activity in the UAE. There have been many exposés about the prevalence of fake jobs and false promises by recruitment companies who charge AED 200–500 for a job placement. In many cases the candidate is told that he did not secure the job because of his incompetence. As per the recently ratified laws of the Emirates, it is illegal for any recruitment company to charge their clients any upfront fees. The company which hires the candidate is responsible for the payment of any service fees of the recruitment firm.

The con artists and scam perpetrators sometimes have sinister motives behind their acts. Robbing a slice of people’s life savings is criminal enough, but sometimes it does not end there. There have been many instances of identity theft, stalking and even heinous crimes committed against these victims.

So what can you do to stop making a fool of yourself when confronted by scam calls, emails & situations? The first thing you need to do is to ask yourself: “Am I Justin Bieber/Timberlake or something?” Then you must remember what your grandma told you: “There is no such thing as a free lunch!”  Your colleague/boss bought you lunch today? If that’s the case then probably you’ll have to buy him back tomorrow.

Please let me know if you do win anything. I have a fantastic new investment (read Inverted Pyramid) scheme – just for you!

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