Dubai Police warn travellers about buying cheap airline tickets
Dubai Police have warned people of the dangers of buying last-minute airline tickets for just a fraction of the usual price after arresting a man who booked several tickets for people using a stolen credit card.
The man, from an Asian country, defrauded dozens of people and bought airline tickets by creating a fake online travel agency and using a stolen credit card.
Dubai Police did not specify how many tickets were bought or their value.
Col Saeed Al Hajiri, director of the Cybercrime Department at Dubai Police, said airline ticket fraud usually flourishes in the summer and holiday seasons, but the number of cases in the emirate has dropped significantly.
Dubai Police recorded 36 cases of airline ticket fraud between 2009 and June of this year.
The Asian suspect has been the only case so far this year, compared with eight cases last year. Dubai Police recorded two cases in 2020, amid the Covid-19 pandemic and subsequent drop in overall travel. “Fake airline ticket scammers are usually active during the summer season but there has been a dramatic drop in the number of cases in Dubai. This year we recorded one case,” Col Al Hajiri told The National.
Dubai Police said the arrest was part of an continuing operation called “Bats Hunt”, which is in co-operation with Interpol, airline companies and global airports.
Col Al Hajiri urged the public to book their airline tickets through verified airline companies and agents. “Be careful before you buy or you could wind up with no ticket and losing your money to criminals,” he said. “Always buy the ticket from official channels. Sometimes scammers make a fake website posing as an official agent or airline company.”
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He advised travellers to check the approved list of travel agents in the UAE with the Economic Development Department, as well as the travel agent's permission or licences.
Social media advert for tickets
Fatima Jameel, an Egyptian resident in the UAE, said her friend was a victim of an airline ticket swindle after buying tickets through an advert on a social media platform. “She contacted the number to buy a ticket to an Arab country and wired the money to an unknown woman. Upon receiving the tickets, my friend discovered it was fake,” said Fatima.
The fraudster, who was living outside the UAE, blocked the woman’s number and did not reply to her messages. The victim filed a case — which is still under investigation — but her travel plans were ruined.
Dubai Police said criminals have also targeted people staying illegally in the country by promising a work visa for a country outside the UAE and airline tickets in exchange for money. “Despite the awareness campaigns, some people fall prey while searching for low-cost tickets. We recorded 390 cases in the last three years where violators were conned by scammers,” Col Al Hajiri said.
Police advise the public to report any fraud via the Dubai Police E-crime platform on Dubai Police's website, the Smart Police Station or the Dubai Police application on smartphones.