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More than half a million rufiyaa stolen in phone scams

Scammers pose as staff from large companies, offer financial rewards and gifts under fake promotions, and seek credit card information to steal money from unsuspecting victims, the police explained.



More than MVR600,000 (US$38,900) have been stolen through phone scams during the past two months, the police said yesterday, and advised the public to be wary of unknown callers.

The scammers pose as staff from large companies or online businesses, offer financial rewards and gifts under fake promotions, and inveigle credit card information to steal money, the police explained.

Several unsuspecting victims have given out bank account and cash card details with the expectation that large amounts of money will be deposited to their accounts.

More than 65 cases have been reported since October, the police said. Some 350 cases have been reported so far this year.

The MVR600,000 was stolen in cases reported in Malé, the police said, whilst several cases have also been reported to police stations in the atolls.

A police spokesperson told The Maldives Independent that the police are trying to identify the scam callers with the help of the Telecommunications Authority.

“Telecom Authority will contact the operators and find the details. In the meantime, we are coordinating with media to spread awareness among the people about this,” the media official said.

Last month, the police investigated the theft of more than MVR100,000 (US$6,485) from a caller pretending to be an employee of the government’s health insurance company Aasandha.

The caller promised to transfer unused funds from the health insurance scheme if the victim provided personal details and bank account information.

Earlier this month, a woman from the island of Naifaru in Lhaviyani atoll reported the theft of more than MVR100,000 by a caller posing as a staff from the Bank of Maldives.

She called the national bank later to block her account, but the money had already been withdrawn.

BML has since urged its customers not to disclose account and cash card information over the phone.

In a joint press conference by BML and the police as well as local telcos Ooredoo and Dhiraagu earlier this month, Retail Banking Director Mohamed Shareef assured BML customers that victims of such scams will be able to replace their cards.

“If BML requires customer information, we will ask for National ID number. We advise everyone to be careful of calls asking for Account PIN, Security code or card numbers.” Shareef told the press.

The police spokesperson meanwhile noted that due to the absence of cyber-crime legislation the perpetrators of phone scams will be charged with theft or fraud.