Monday, April 23, 2012

the (un)Lucky one

I have never been lucky in raffles and games of chance. During Christmas parties and other events people in my table would get their names and or raffle numbers called one by one except for me. I never really have won anything in raffles not even the ubiquitous mug or scented candle… so imagine my shock when I received a call saying I have just won 2 million dirhams in a raffle draw by Etisalat which is the foremost telecommunication company here in the UAE.

What should have been dead giveaways to alert me that this was some kind of scam was lost to my overwhelming feeling of shock. The fact that the call came from an unregistered/unknown personal number and that I could barely understand the person on the other line – I asked him to repeat what he was saying a couple times over which should have made me realize that he was NOT from a telecommunications company – did not register immediately. I really did feel overwhelmed by the (false) information that I have won something – well not just something but 2 million dirhams!

I felt my hand begin to shake and sweat and start to imagine finally going to that dream vacation in Europe as the person explained how my unique sim card bar code number or something was entered into an electronic raffle and drawn as the grand prize winner – he quoted a number that was really embossed in my sim card, this turned out to be same in all cards. It was only when he began to instruct me to go to an exchange center to make a transfer that it dawned to me that this is a scam. So I tried to keep him on the phone, telling him I will be at the exchange center in five minutes. When he called back I asked my Arab office mate to talk to him and tell him that we will be giving the number to the police – he put the phone down immediately.

We never really did get to report the incident but as I was reading  Gulf news today I read that the Sharjah police has apprehended an 18-member phone scam gang. Their modus operandi is to call random numbers and quote that sim card code for ‘authenticity’ and instruct the ‘winner’ to transfer money into their accounts via exchange centers to complete the ‘transaction’ after which they go kaput and the winner is left with nothing but a feeling of frustration at being duped, dismay at what could have been and worse a lot less (not more) in their bank accounts.

In the past I have been one of those persons who might have said people who get duped with scams like these are stupid but now as someone who got to experience it first hand I say that sometimes you just get so overwhelmed that your wits go out the window and its all you can do to scramble after it and come to your senses before you become a victim.

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Well I still have not won any raffles with all the online and grocery contests I join but I still consider my self lucky not to have fallen victim to scammers and I pray to never be.

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