Dubai Police warn of the deceptive "skinning prey" electronic fraud technique

Electronic scammers have evolved their tactics to ensnare victims by closely monitoring their activities and identifying vulnerabilities.

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A prevalent method involves messages purportedly sent by attractive individuals, informing the recipient of being a chosen winner with exclusive content accessible through a link. Fraudsters employ emotional manipulation, gradually extracting money in what anti-cybercrime experts term "skinning the prey."

One tactic entails notifying the recipient of an undelivered postal package and urging them to correct the address via an attached link, leading to the hacking of the victim's phone data upon clicking. Brigadier Saeed Al Hajri, Director of the Anti-Cybercrime Department at Dubai Police, emphasises self-protection mechanisms based on user awareness. He underscores the indelibility of information on the internet, cautioning that hackers can exploit it if a phone or account is compromised.

Fraudsters deploy "social engineering of the victim," studying virtual activities to manipulate individuals emotionally or exploit vulnerabilities linked to service providers. Awareness plays a critical role in recognizing and avoiding phishing links, as highlighted by Ismail Marouf, who refrained from clicking on a link received on Instagram due to awareness of phishing risks.

Instances of emotional exploitation are recounted, with victims forming deep connections through online relationships, leading to financial exploitation. Muhammad Ali narrowly avoided falling victim to a phishing attempt disguised as a delivery company message, emphasising the importance of verifying the source. Similarly, Adel Mahmoud and others received messages from purported government institutions or delivery services requesting personal data.

Brigadier Al-Hajri notes that electronic fraud typically begins with phishing links, exploiting major events, or creating fake advertisements for jobs. The fraud evolves into blackmail or data theft, affecting companies globally. Awareness has increased, but scammers persistently refine their methods, targeting newer internet users like children and teenagers. The "skinning prey" method, reliant on social engineering, exploits emotional voids, sometimes persisting for years until victims exhaust their finances. Al-Hajri emphasises the necessity of careful app downloads, social awareness, and scepticism towards relationships formed on communication platforms due to the emotional manipulation by fraudsters.

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