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18 September 2018 01:39 pm

Scams in Qatar and how to avoid them

nabeela
nabeela
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Scam

As technology is advancing rapidly, so are the scams that are becoming more and more complex and even more convincing, and even though print, broadcast, and online campaigns are constantly warning us and raising awareness against these scams, many people still fall victim to them.

In recent years, the number of people trying to scam others and make money from it has been growing, even in a country like Qatar which is so safe and secure in general. A lot of these scams are executed by clever people who approach people through their mobile numbers, social media or in person. Their aim is to cheat people out of their money. They can be so convincing that often people fall prey to their clever, sneaky ways and end up losing money in the process.

Therefore, it is of utmost importance that the public in Qatar is well-informed of common scam schemes and what to do in case they are scammed.

Phone scams

phone scams in Qatar

Scam No. 1: Fake overseas calls

How it works: People often report having received missed calls from overseas numbers from time-to-time. Most of these calls come from either Senegal, Latvia or Belarus and if the number is called back, premium rates are charged.

What to do: The best thing to do if you receive a call from an unknown overseas number, is to never call back. If it’s a genuine caller, they are bound to call back, otherwise ignore and delete the number.

Scam No. 2: Fake calls from Oooredoo or Vodafone

How it works: Scammers use internet calling apps like Whatsapp or Viber, or fake caller IDs to call people and tell them they have won a cash prize from Ooredoo or Vodafone depending on which network operator the person is using. When they get a response, they ask the person who received the call for personal information like bank details and credit card data so they can transfer the prize money to their account, or they may ask the person to send a certain amount as charges through Western Union or to a specific bank account so they can transfer the prize money to the recipient’s account. Of course, they never transfer any prize money because there is none, but keep the charges sent to them and may also use the details they were given to make illegal transactions.

Ooredoo and Vodafone always use their official landline numbers when they call their customers, and they never ask for personal information like credit card details, passwords, etc., so beware!

What to do: In case you receive a call from someone who claims to be from Ooredoo or Vodafone and uses an unregistered or suspicious number, immediately block and delete them and inform the concerned network operator about the scam, especially if you are asked for any bank details or personal information.

Online scams

Online scams in Qatar

Scam No. 1: Fake free gift vouchers or free gifts

How it works: People have reported receiving offers for free gift vouchers or free gifts from such reputed brand names like Lulu Hypermarket, Carrefour, Starbucks, McDonalds, KFC, H&M and Next, to name a few, on social media. The offers appear legitimate because well-known brands and logos are used. To receive the free gift voucher or free gift, customers may be asked to ‘like’ a Facebook page, share the post with friends and family, and/or follow a link to participate in a survey which is actually fake. The survey may ask for personal details which are used by the scammers to commit identity theft. Sometimes, clicking the link may cause the social media account to be compromised or hijacked.

Sometimes, customers are even asked to print the online voucher and take it to store to claim the free gift, which again is fake and at the end, nothing is gained or received.

What to do: Never share confidential details of any sort with anyone online. If you are not sure that the offer is legitimate, contact the customer services of the company or store and double check.

Scam No. 2: Fake embassy e-mails

How it works: Some time back scammers were using the US Embassy in Qatar’s Ambassador’s name to scam people out of money by using fake accounts. These scammers were using the Ambassador’s name to extract money from people in return for favours.

The truth is that any correspondence from the US Embassy in Qatar will have a proper e-mail address with the ending @state.gov and no one will use personal or random e-mail addresses.

What to do: Do not share confidential details/information with anyone, especially online. Check the e-mail address and if it doesn’t have @state.gov at the end, it’s probably fake. In this case, contact [email protected] and www.ic3.gov to report the scam or any similar incident that appears dodgy.

Scam No. 3: Fake recruitment e-mails

How it works: A while ago, some people were receiving recruitment e-mails or social media posts with the Qatar Petroleum name and logo on them. The false recruitment advertisements were offering fake employment opportunities to recipients of these e-mails after providing personal information and/or advance payments for recruitment. It’s important to note in this case that Qatar Petroleum, its affiliates and its accredited recruitment agencies do not charge prospective employees any kind of recruitment fees during any stage of the recruitment process and their e-mail addresses would have @qp.com.qa at the end.

What to do: If you receive a recruitment e-mail from a prominent company, make sure you check the e-mail address it came from. The e-email may not be from an authentic company. Real companies usually use their name or initials at the end just like @qp.com.qa and do not charge money as part of the recruitment process at any stage.

Scam No. 4: Fake recruitment agencies

How it works: Another Qatar based company whose name was used by a fake recruitment agency in India to scam people into giving their money in the name of recruitment fees was Al Sraiya Group. The fake agency was charging people money for job offers that did not exist. The company became aware of this scam when some people called the company to inquire about the job offers and lodged a formal complaint with the Indian Embassy in Doha to deal with the fake agency.

What to do: If you do get an e-mail from a company, do thorough research and call the company to get a better idea if they actually did send out any job opportunity through an e-mail. In fact, the best course of action would be to delete such e-mails as soon as they are received and report them to the company whose name they are using so some action can be taken against them.

Scam No. 5: Fake fine settlement

How it works: A number of residents have fallen prey to online frauds in Qatar. Most of these crimes are committed by ‘middle men’ who approach people on social networking sites, offering to settle fines for them. These ‘middle men’ pay the fine with forged or stolen credit cards and the inform the person who had the fine that the payment has been successful. The ‘beneficiaries’ can then verify the fine payment by checking the relevant websites and pay the ‘middle men’. However, at the time of the collection, the system rejects the payment because it was made by a forged or stolen credit card and the fine is not paid.

What to do: Do not trust people on social media, especially those that contact you with quick fixes and never share confidential details or personal information with anyone.

Scam No. 6: Fake airline e-mails

How it works: Some people have even received fake e-mails that claim to be from Qatar Airways and refer to confirmations for bookings that haven’t even been made. Either these e-mails ask the person to click the link to cancel the booking or to print the ticket. The minute the recipient of the e-mail clicks on the link, personal details are compromised and stolen by the scammer.

What to do: Never reply back to such e-mails and do not click on the link unless you are absolutely sure the e-mail is from Qatar Airways.

Physical/first-hand scams

physical scams in Qatar

Scam No. 1: Taxi metre not working

How it works: Many people who frequently use taxis complain that the metre is not working, or rather the taxi driver pretends the metre is not working, so they can over charge the person using the taxi.

This is a very common scam.

What to do: Whenever you sit in a taxi, make sure the metre is working. Taxi drivers often pretend their metre is not working so they can overcharge you.

Scam No. 2: Taxi metre not reset

How it works: Sometimes the taxi driver conveniently forgets to reset the metre after dropping the previous customer. The taxi driver then proceeds to charge the customer who just sat in his taxi that fare and the one for the present journey, especially if the present customer is not paying attention to the metre.

What to do: Make sure you check the metre when you sit in the taxi and insist it be reset, in case the taxi driver doesn’t do so.

Scam No. 3: Taxi change not given

How it works: Sometimes the customer may not have the exact amount shown on the metre and may give the taxi driver more money expecting to get his change back. Most of the time, the taxi driver complies, but sometimes the taxi driver pretends he doesn’t have the exact change and tries to scam the customer by taking the extra money and pocketing it, especially if the customer is in a hurry.

What to do: Try to keep extra change with you if you know you will be using a taxi and if you don’t have change, inform the taxi driver when you sit in the taxi so he can make arrangements on the way.

Scam No. 4: Fake sad family

How it works: There have been incidents where a whole family comes up to a car and tells those in the car that they came from some nearby country but now that they want to return back, they don’t have any money. They come up with all kinds of excuses as to why they don’t have any money. They pretend to look sad and miserable and try to scam the people in the car into helping them out.

What to do: Ignore these people and move away from there. Do not engage in any arguments or conversations with them, just in case they try to steal from you or rob you of your valuables.

Scam No. 5: Fake currency scam

How it works: Just recently, someone shared on a Facebook group that some one tried to scam him near Doha’s Al Muntaza Plaza Hotel by picking up a bundle of Qatari currency notes from the street and asking him if the money belonged to him. When this person said the money wasn’t his, the scammer proceeded to make an offer to him to split the money 50/50. When this person insisted the money neither belonged to him nor did he want to split it 50/50, another scammer came up to them (actually, they were both partners in crime).

Had the person split the money, this other scammer would have said that he was the one who had lost the money while he was walking past the area a little while before. The first scammer would lie and say this person was trying to steal the money. When the person argued that the first scammer was lying, the second scammer would show some of the notes he was carrying with serial numbers that were a continuation from the ones that were picked up from the street. The second scammer would then threaten to call the police and tell them this person was trying to steal his money. During this time, both the scammers would steal this person’s money and other valuables and disappear.

What to do: The best thing to do in such a situation is to walk away at the first sign of trouble and alert the police or security nearby.

Who to contact in Qatar in case you are a victim of a scam

Who to contact for scams in Qatar

Ministry of Interior (MOI)

The MOI continuously warns all residents in Qatar - local and expats – to be careful of these scams, and not to keep or share any personal information or banking details online.

In case of any scam or suspicious online activity, the MOI urges people to call +974 42347444 or 66815757 or send an e-mail to [email protected]

Communications Regulatory Authority

The Communications Regulatory Authority urges residents to share their scam stories related to mobiles, calls or spam at [email protected]

How many of these scams have you heard of? Have you or anyone you know been scammed in Qatar? Do you know of any other scams in Qatar we can share? Do let us know. Like and share the article - it keeps us going!