Online fraud: Recharge rip-off

Gulf News, 29-12-2010 19:34:29

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Dubai: A city businessman woke up to the shock of his life when a chilling barrage of SMSes informed him that Dh10,000 had been deducted overnight from his Mashreq bank account recently.


Kannaiyan Shankear, a 40-year-old Dubai-born Indian businessman who owns restaurants and textile shops, said 20 etisalat re-charge transactions worth Dh500 each were deducted from his account between 11.30pm and 2am on December 6 and 7, while he was sleeping.

Scary loss


The amounts were credited to different mobile numbers which went ‘dead’ the next morning, said Shankear. "This is an elaborate scam," Shankear said. Following the midnight rip-off, he lodged a complaint with the bank. "The customer service officer I talked to informed me that I wasn’t the only victim. It’s all done in the night, when everyone is fast asleep," he said.


Shankear said he had neither applied for nor activated online transactions, adding: "I only have an ‘online view’ facility. But not online transactions. Never." Shankear said he normally shuts down his mobile by 10.30pm. However, on December 7, when he switched on his cell phone at 6.30am, he got 20 messages from his bank detailing the transactions.


"How can they approve such series of transactions? Maybe they would approve it once or twice, but not 20 times, that too within the same hour, without seeing anything unusual," he said. He also filed a police complaint upon the bank’s recommendation. "If your bank balance is reduced while you’re sleeping … it’s scary. There should be a better security firewall," he said. A Mashreq bank spokesperson said Shankear was hit by a "phishing" scam (false e-mail alerts that lead victims to fake websites, through which cyber-criminals break user names and passwords).


Security systems

"We discovered that a highly sophisticated phishing campaign resulted in Mashreq customers falling victims to an online fraud," the spokesperson said, adding no breach of the bank’s security systems occurred. "Mr Shankear has access to MashreqOnline since December 15, 2009... We have retrieved several successful logins to the account, hence it is active and the customer is aware of it," the spokesperson said.


Asked whether Shankear will be able to recover the amount, the spokesperson said: "We sympathise with Mr Shankear’s case and would like to offer him all assistance to take this further with the authorities. However, as per the published MashreqOnline Banking terms, the customer is responsible for the security of his or her user ID and password...."


Shankear said he has proof no online transactions were done on his account till the hackers hit.

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