JEDDAH: Saudi banking organizations are winning the fight against financial fraud after figures showed a significant fall in the number of recorded cases in the Kingdom.
A major drive by the Saudi Arabian Monetary Authority (SAMA) in cooperation with Saudi banks to crack down on fraudulent activities, has seen incidents more than halved.
According to statistics, approximately 1,063 cases of fraud worth a total of around SR49 million ($13 million) were reported this year, down from 2,613 (SR170 million) in 2018.
Talat Zaki Hafiz, secretary-general of Saudi Banks’ media and banking awareness committee, told Arab News that the most common types of fraud techniques used to cheat Saudi bank customers last year were anonymous phone calls asking people to update their banking record and personal information, electronic methods of stealing financial data, and credit card fraud particularly targeting travelers.
“The media and banking awareness committee of Saudi Banks over a number of years has sent more than 226 million SMS messages, in addition to messages that were sent through other channels such as social media,” said Hafiz.
Individual Saudi banks were continuously putting out awareness messages to their customers, he added, advising them of the proper and safe use of banking, e-channels and bank cards.
A recent police security crackdown resulted in the arrest of two groups in Qassim and Makkah suspected of illegally obtaining personal and financial information via text messages.
Victims were lured by messages asking bank clients to update their account details or win fake cash prizes, with other more frequent texts claiming bank cards had been blocked and attaching links for customers to click on.
Mobile phones, several passports and documents, and a number of SIM cards were also found with the alleged fraudsters.
“Fraud and fraudsters do not differentiate between nationals and non-nationals,” added Hafiz. “To ensure that the awareness messages are reaching Arabic and non-Arabic speakers, SMS messages and news were sent and published in English language and recently in Malayalam language.”
A manual on combating embezzlement and financial fraud, issued by SAMA in 2008, defined financial fraud as, “any act involving deceit to obtain a direct or indirect financial benefit by the perpetrator or by others with his help, causing a loss to the deceived party.”
The definition included financial gain by obtaining information by deceit or any other dishonest conduct related to an intangible benefit.
SAMA warned people not to respond to such fraudulent messages.
More than 150 million awareness messages have been sent out by the Saudi Communications and Information Technology Commission (CITC), which has allocated the number 330330 for people to report spam received via text. More than 8 million complaints have so far been reported to authorities.