(MENAFN - Arab News) According to press reports, a number of prominent figures and businessmen have become victims of fraudulent means over the past few weeks. The swindlers managed to siphon money off from their bank accounts after getting access to their bank account numbers, secret codes or passwords, Al-Eqtisadiah business daily reported.
Impersonated as bank officials, these fraudsters contacted the customers and managed to obtain confidential information on the pretext of completing significant banking procedures. They then transferred money from the customers' accounts into unknown accounts outside the Kingdom or to the accounts of foreigners working in the Kingdom.
Suleiman Al-Ahmad, one of the victims, told the newspaper that a swindler telephoned him and introduced himself as a senior official working at the customer service section of a bank. "The impersonator asked me to update my bank account details by passing the relevant information in an SMS to his mobile number. He also asked me to furnish the secret telephone number that I was using to do any banking transactions," he said.
Al-Ahmad said he was shocked to see afterward that an amount of SR100,000 was missing from his account. It was transferred to the accounts of several Arab nationals working in the Kingdom.
Abdullah Suleiman, another victim, blamed the customer service officials for their lack of cooperation in preventing the swindler from siphoning off money from his account. "I contacted a banking customer service official immediately after realizing that the man, who had contacted me on the phone and introduced himself as a banking official, was an impersonator. But the customer service official refused to intervene in the matter, saying that he was not authorized to do so. He advised me to contact the Saudi Arabian Monetary Agency (SAMA) officials," he said.
Suleiman continued saying: "After this, I made some efforts to locate the swindler, and managed to find out about a foreign worker to whose account a portion of the money had already been transferred. When I contacted the foreigner, he told me that he, too, had become a victim of swindling. He told me that his neighbor's son had asked him permission to transfer an amount of his father's money to his bank account, not knowing that he would exploit the situation to transfer huge amounts of money. The foreign worker returned me a portion of my lost money and furnished the name and address of his so-called swindler neighbor, a young man with a bachelor's degree in computer programming and management," he said. Suleiman did not know how to recover the remaining amount of money.
Referring to the issue, Ahmad Al-Jubair, leading financial consultant and member of the Saudi Economic Society, said that there has been a considerable increase in swindlers employing their tricks after impersonating themselves as bank officials. "There has been an alarming increase in the number of such cases with the advancement in the information and communications technology," he said while attributing this also to the lack of effective rules and regulations to prevent these practices as well as to award stringent penal action against the fraudsters. "The banks are also not carrying out any awareness programs among their customers to take precautions against swindlers and their tricks," he said while noting that banks normally do not shoulder any responsibility in case customers fall victims to such fraudulent means.
Al-Jubair also criticized the inefficiency of the banking system. "The procedures to carry out investigation and confirm that the swindling has taken place are long and tiresome. This gives the swindlers enough time to get away with the stolen money. The banks are not in a position to protect the accounts of customers or inactivate the accounts of swindlers without the approval of SAMA," he said while urging banking authorities to take swift action to prevent swindling immediately after reporting such cases.
Razan Rawashida, a legal consultant, cautioned against updating any banking customer information via telephone. "Customers should not respond positively to any calls, even if they were made by banking officials, with regard to furnishing their secret telephone number or password," she said.