Hundreds falling prey to cyber extortion in UAEv\

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Sharjah, Nov 30: Hundreds of people are falling prey to cyber extortion every year in the UAE due to the increasing use of smart technology, law enforcement authorities in Sharjah said on Wednesday.

During a forum on ‘Risks of Cyber Extortion’, Sharjah Police warned citizens and residents against disclosing personal information and bank account numbers and being lured by misleading ads on the web.

A series of initiatives to prevent online extortion were discussed by police officers and representatives of government institutions at the forum.

“Smart technology is attracting increasing attention as more and more people [from different age groups] are falling victim to cyber extortion. This raises concerns among authorities, who are taking great efforts to curb [the illegal practice],” said Colonel Ebrahim Al Ajel, director of Criminal and Investigation Department of Sharjah Police.

Col Al Ajel pointed out that online patrols are working round the clock and detecting 18-20 cyber extortion crimes every month.

Other efforts by Sharjah Police to curb this menace include the launch of confidential services to help victims report cases, online patrols, and Najeed (toll-free number 800151). “These services and the awareness campaigns organised by police in schools, colleges and universities have played a great role in decreasing the number during the last two years.”

According to police investigations, blackmailers use various methods to get personal information and data from victims, Col Al Ajel said. These include communication through social media and extracting information from mobile phone shops (of those who have given their devices for repair).

The types of extortion include financial, sexual, ideological and emotional, he added. Most of the blackmailers are men, but there are also a few women, including the Arab women, Col Al Ajel said.

Dr Saud Al Khalid, from Dubai Police’s Criminal Investigation Department, talked of cyber blackmail risks and how it affects the security and stability of society. “The digital society is vast and has no limit and borders, so spreading of awareness is an efficient tool to curb the phenomenon.”

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