Mission advises residents to cross-check email ids and social media accounts to avoid being tricked
The Indian Embassy in Abu Dhabi has alerted members of the community to seasoned fraudsters using a fake social media handle to trick distressed and needy people into taking money from them for aid that does not never comes.
Exploiting the negative impact of the Covid-19 pandemic on the community, tech-savvy fraudsters actively track and trick people in need seeking help on social media platforms like Twitter, particularly their tweets tagging Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Indian External Affairs Minister S. Jaishankar among other ministers. Using the fake Twitter account @embassy_help, which looks a lot like an official government page, and the email id [email protected], the scammers are said to be looking for between Rs 15,000 (Dh 700) and 40,000 Rs (1,800 Dh) from those who need a flight ticket from UAE to India or even to process a visa application. Earlier today, the Embassy issued a public notice following which the tweets from the fake Twitter account were protected.
The Embassy has received several victim complaints and email alerts from vigilant members of the community familiar with the Embassy’s official Twitter account: @IndembAbuDhabi.
“A fake social media ID has been created in the name of the Embassy. When people in distress ask for help on social media platforms, they usually tag the Twitter IDs of Prime Minister of India, Minister of External Affairs , etc. the UAE in India,” the embassy spokesperson told the Khaleej Times.
Cases where people have sought help include repatriation of corpses of loved ones to India, unemployed people seeking airfare, people in financial crisis seeking to return home, etc. These people are invited to perform at least 50% of the flight. ticket, which is “refundable”. However, once the payment is made through Net banking, there would be no response from the fraudsters. While some would also have been asked to pay additional fees.
Apart from these cases, another issue has been where personal data has been used to defame a person or entity.
“They are requesting that personal information be sent to a fake email id ([email protected]). Desperate people would share their details such as Emirates ID, phone number, personal email ID, company etc. Then, these scammers use this personal information to create derogatory messages on behalf of the person against their business owners and HR personnel etc. , companies are taking legal action against the poor, who are already in distress and asking for help, even though the messages are generated from fake IDs,” the spokesperson said.
Currently, the Embassy has handled 3-4 cases, but fears that more people will be victimized unless greater awareness is created.
“Some victims face legal action, including prosecution. Some have lost their jobs and others have to pay a fine. There are active cases that we are dealing with at the embassy.
Adding to the seriousness of this fraud is that earlier this year, the Indian Embassy in Saudi Arabia issued a similar notice regarding the @embassy_support Twitter account and the ind_embassy.mea email id. [email protected]
The spokesperson noted, “This is turning into a big racket. To look authentic, those running this fake twitter are constantly retweeting messages from the Prime Minister of India and other ministries. We regularly receive emails on our official ID regarding these issues from vigilant expats. We are looking at the matter very seriously.
The fake handle also retweets Covid-19 updates tweeted by the Indian government and has recently started retweeting tweets from India’s new president.
“We want to raise awareness because we fear that many more people will fall victim to such fraudsters. The Embassy has no affiliation with the Twitter account @embassy_help and the email id [email protected]
Earlier, the embassy said in a statement that all official email IDs, Twitter IDs, Facebook IDs and phone numbers are listed on its official website.
“All Official Email IDs, Twitter Account, Facebook ID, Phone Numbers etc of Indian Embassy are mentioned on our website https://www.indembasyuae.gov.in/ Everyone is advised to check carefully with the embassy website to avoid falling into the trap of unscrupulous elements.Please note that all Indian mission email ids always end in the domain @mea .gov.in,” the mission added.
“Beware of any communication received from entities impersonating the Embassy or its officials.”