Riyadh, Asharq Al-Awsat- the Saudi Ministry of Trade and Industry has issued a warning concerning the increase in cases of internet fraud. Many fall victim to these hoaxes by opening emails from unknown senders who offer the recipients an opportunity to take part in investment projects. The warning came after a noticeable increase in electronic fraud due to the lack of knowledge of information technology and e-commerce among citizens.
Over a period of fifteen years, the emails have managed to defraud fortunes from people all over the world each year despite numerous warnings and efforts from governments to tackle and end this crime. Due to the surge of internet users in Saudi Arabia, the number of which exceeds 2 million, this method of fraud has found a successful ground.
Nasser Al Meshayqah, Assistant Secretary General for the affairs of Saudi chambers of commerce and industry, revealed that many Saudis, especially businessmen, have fallen victim to such scams. This is because they readily provide their bank account and credit card details to the unknown sources that approach them via email. He added, that some businessmen do not verify the identity of the firms that present them with business ventures and do not verify that these firms are registered in their countries” chambers of commerce.
The general director of the legal department at the Saudi Ministry of Interior, Abdel Al Rahman Al Shamarani stated that the biggest challenge in combating these crimes is that they are transnational. To trace the criminals requires coordination and cooperation with more than one country and authority. This is usually difficult in the absence of an international agreement for cooperation in security matters, and in the absence of an international body or mechanism for cooperation against these crimes.
Al Shamarani added, "Most of the emails are sent from African countries, especially Nigeria, due to the lack of capability by the security agencies in these countries to trace the sources of the emails." He noted that the sources use the names of famous figures to gain the confidence of their victims or to disguise their identities. Al Shamarani stated that the fraud operative would also adopt the name of a top official or a former president usually of an African country.
Al Shamarani clarified that the fraudsters would choose their victims randomly and would send an outline of the same e-mail to several recipients. The email directory could also be used to target affluent members of societies within richer countries. On his part, the professor of criminal law in Prince Naif Security College stated that these criminals focus on the gluttonous nature of their victims and on their desire to make a quick fortune. The success of the fraudsters depends on the victims” background and awareness.
He added, "Some criminals exploit users” confidence in e-commerce and will set up a false web site that sells products at lower prices than usual. As soon as the buyer sends his credit card or bank account details, the criminal act of stealing begins. This has actually caused the e-commerce sector to suffer."
The Interpol is usually the authority responsible for pursuing the fraudsters through coordination with security agencies of other countries. Al Shamarani said, "Criminals involved in this kind of crime are well aware of the difficulties of police coordination, and observe the latest methods of security agencies and legislations to combat these crimes. They are also constantly advancing their fraudulent techniques to keep up with the security and technology developments in combating electronic fraud scams."