Saudi Central Bank forms team to probe online scam as experts warn about loophole’ in e-financing

Saudi Central Bank forms team to probe online scam as experts warn about loophole’ in e-financing
A projection of cyber code on a hooded man is pictured in this illustration. (REUTERS file photo)
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Updated 28 March 2021

Saudi Central Bank forms team to probe online scam as experts warn about loophole’ in e-financing

Saudi Central Bank forms team to probe online scam as experts warn about loophole’ in e-financing
  • Amid growing wave of scam, Saudi man loses thousands to fraudsters posing as job recruiters on LinkedIn

RIYADH: Fraudsters are inventing new ways to con people out of their money by using social media websites and fake job offers to lure in unsuspecting Saudis.

As many companies in the Kingdom move towards increasing their quota of skilled workers, Saudis are seeking better job opportunities and using special job sites to find work.
In the past few days, a video widely circulated on social media showed a young man named Ammar who said that he applied for a job on LinkedIn to work for NEOM Company through a recruitment agency.
The job poster asked him to provide a CV and ID number, he said.
Soon after he spoke to the supposed recruitment agent, Ammar was scammed out of SR15,000 ($4,000), he warned in the five-minute video.
Ammar said that he applied for the job two weeks beforehand, and that within a week, a person of “Asian descent” called him from a Saudi number for an interview. In the interview, the man asked Ammar the usual questions normally put forward in a job interview, such as employment history and salary negotiation.
“He was very professional and his English was fluent,” Ammar said, adding: “I was told I was shortlisted and to expect a second interview call within a week.”
But in order to finalize the process, the man asked Ammar to provide him with a code number sent to his phone. After receiving it — from the same company he applied through on LinkedIn — he sent through the code, and the rest was history.
Ammar learned that the fraudsters were able to take out a loan of SR15,000 in his name. He warned that 10 of his friends were conned out of money the same way.
“The fraudsters must have conned many people like me using the same tricks,” he said.




‘The fraudsters must have conned many people like me using the same tricks.’

The Saudi Central Bank (SAMA) issued a statement Friday saying that it was following up on Ammar’s story and that it was aware of the scam.
According to the statement, SAMA has formed a team to investigate the scams and said that the financing company mentioned in the video was a SAMA-licensed company and was allowed to practice microfinance through fintech services.
The microfinance company was directed to take corrective measures to prevent the scam, while SAMA said that it will continue to investigate the matter and urge preventive measures.
SAMA warned the Saudi public to avoid sharing personal information with any party whose identity is unproven. If suspicious transactions are discovered, the incident must be reported to security authorities and SAMA through its platform.

HIGHLIGHTS

• In the past few days, a video widely circulated on social media showed a young man named Ammar who said that he applied for a job on LinkedIn to work for NEOM Company through a recruitment agency.

• The job poster asked him to provide a CV and ID number. Soon after he spoke to the supposed recruitment agent, Ammar was scammed out of SR15,000 ($4,000).

• Ammar said that he applied for the job two weeks beforehand, and that within a week, a person of ‘Asian descent’ called him from a Saudi number for an interview. The man asked Ammar to provide him with a code number sent to his phone. After receiving it — from the same company he applied through on LinkedIn — he sent through the code, and the rest was history.

Khalid Alyehya, a member of the Saudi Bar Association, warned that the video fails to provide enough evidence, and lacks an explanation for how the two parties agreed to and signed the contract remotely.
Another question that must be answered concerns the account the loan was deposited to, and whether it was the account of the applicant or the account of the hacker, Alyehya said. He added: “Something is afoot and needs clarification.”
He said: “The person on the video said that he applied for a job then discovered that his name was on the microfinance company’s list of borrowers. I have a lot of questions on my mind before I can confirm what happened exactly.
“Do the financing laws allow e-financing? Maybe this is possible through sending electronic copies, but what about signing a contract? To sign a contract, you have to be present physically, because your identity will be checked to ensure that you are competent enough to sign.”
Alyehya said that it will be difficult to confirm negligence or errors on the part of the contract parties before the investigation has concluded.
Dr. Salih Al-Sultan, a former senior consultant at the Ministry of Finance, said that it is important to conduct investigations into electronic scams, especially given today’s fast-paced online lifestyle.
He said that SAMA and intelligence authorities, including the Artificial Intelligence Authority, should work together and benefit from the experience of central banks in other countries, adding that microfinance companies should be required to prove that they are aware of technical scams and the methods behind them.


Saudi Arabia calls for peaceful use of nuclear energy

Saudi Arabia calls for peaceful use of nuclear energy
Updated 20 September 2021

Saudi Arabia calls for peaceful use of nuclear energy

Saudi Arabia calls for peaceful use of nuclear energy
  • The minister said the region needs to be free of weapons of mass destruction

DUBAI: Saudi Arabia adheres to its policy for the peaceful use of nuclear energy, Al-Ekhbariya TV cited Saudi Energy Minister Prince Abdulaziz bin Salman as saying during a press conference on Monday.

He added that it is important for countries to adhere to the Non-Proliferation Treaty, and the need to prevent Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons.

“The Kingdom is concerned about Iran’s non-compliance and lack of transparency of its nuclear program,” the minister said.

He further said the region needs to be free of weapons of mass destruction, and Saudi Arabia continues to support the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) to consolidate the peaceful use of nuclear energy.

The nuclear watchdog’s General Assembly began its meeting on Monday in Vienna to discuss the challenges that faced the organization a year ago.

Another meeting will be held between the IAEA Director General Rafael Mariano Grossi and the Head of Atomic Energy Organization of Iran Mohammad Eslami to discuss Tehran’s cooperation with the agency, and to set a new date for Grossi’s visit to the country.


The Flowerman Festival: Sharing Asir’s culture with the world

The Flowerman Festival: Sharing Asir’s culture with the world
Updated 20 September 2021

The Flowerman Festival: Sharing Asir’s culture with the world

The Flowerman Festival: Sharing Asir’s culture with the world
  • Flowerman Festival celebrates the rural traditions in the Asir mountains in the southwestern region of Saudi Arabia

RIYADH: Bright colors, regional flowers and celebrations of heritage are highlights of the second Flowerman Festival, hosted by the Ministry of Culture in the Asir region.

Young and old visitors wear colorful floral garlands and join hands and dance to celebrate this important cultural and historical event.

The Flowerman Festival celebrates the rural traditions in the Asir mountains in the southwestern region of Saudi Arabia from Sept 13 to Sept. 27.

One of the missions of the festival is to share the Flowerman heritage and spread awareness of its cultural diversity with local and international visitors through art, dance and storytelling.

The festival is centered around three features, which focus on the preservation of culture under the theme of “nine years of glory.”

The first feature of the festival depicts the stories of the historical roles of the flowermen in a feature called “FlowerMen and Determination,” showing Rijal Almaa’s timeline through dance and chanting.

The second feature of the festival will celebrate women and the important role they play in preserving the heritage of the Asir region through their colorful artwork.

Some of the local women can be seen around the festival grounds carefully weaving the traditional floral crowns made of marigolds, jasmine and basil.

These floral crowns are the staple of the festival, worn not only the locals in Rijal Almaa village but by all visitors in celebration of its rural heritage. 

Made of freshly cut flowers, these crowns are a historical symbol of power, health and eternity worn by many locals in the Asir and Jazan region. 

The third feature of the festival is “Rijal’s Fort.” This showcases the local architecture — made of colorful stone, delicately stacked — and which also makes use of clay and wood.

Projected on the 60 buildings in the village is a laser show that shares the story of Rijal’s history.

At night these buildings, 14 of which were used as forts, are highlighted with bright colored lights that trace each corner of the structures, creating a bright glow from miles away.

The events are hosted in two locations — the first is the village of Rijal and the second is in Al-Soudah Park.

Al-Soudah Park features a 360-degree main stage where folk performances are held, and where the local colorful thobes and floral crowns have caught the attention of locals and international visitors. 

Located 45 km west of Abha, the hub of the festival Rijal Almaa, the location is in the process of becoming a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

The hub was once the meeting place for merchants and pilgrims traveling to the holy cities of Makkah and Medina. Here merchants traded food, grains, household items, spices and jewelry.

This culturally rich region is home to the Rijal Almaa village, also referred to by international tourists as the gingerbread village because of the bright colors of the stone bricks carefully laid to create its century-old architectural structures.

Rijal Almaa holds a deep historical importance for the Kingdom; it is the location where the Asiri tribes claimed independence over the region and defeated the Ottoman forces in 1825.

The Flowerman Festival is a harmonious celebration of the environment and the rich local heritage of the village people. The festival showcases the connected villages that coexist within the environment, where people harvest flowers to create garlands and live in harmony with nature.

Few places in the world are preserved in the way that the Asir region is, with its historic villages hidden in the mountains.

The second edition of the festival offers live music, horseback riding and an open-air heritage market that sells many handmade crafts created by the local village people of the Asir region.

The first festival in 2019 welcomed more than 30,000 visitors with the theme of the local roses.

The Flowerman Festival will continue as an annual event organized by the Ministry of Culture to attract global visitors.


Misguided advice on diet, gym workouts ‘doing more harm than good’, say fitness specialists

Fitness specialists say that unreliable information on the internet and poorly researched advice can have a negative influence on those eager to join gyms. (Shutterstock)
Fitness specialists say that unreliable information on the internet and poorly researched advice can have a negative influence on those eager to join gyms. (Shutterstock)
Updated 19 September 2021

Misguided advice on diet, gym workouts ‘doing more harm than good’, say fitness specialists

Fitness specialists say that unreliable information on the internet and poorly researched advice can have a negative influence on those eager to join gyms. (Shutterstock)
  • "I have heard a lot of wrong facts and tips about sports. A lot of people on social media don’t have a certificate in fitness, and I see them advising people based on their personal experience and not studies"
  • Fitness myth-busters come out fighting

JEDDAH: With interest in sport surging in the Kingdom, Saudis embarking on gym and exercise regimes have been warned to beware of self-appointed “experts” peddling fitness myths that can ruin workouts and even damage health.

Fitness specialists say that unreliable information on the internet and poorly researched advice can have a negative influence on those eager to join gyms.

Extreme diets and exercise programs can cause more harm than good, they warn.

Yumna Khalid, a 23-year-old university student, told Arab News that she has had many such experiences at her gym but has finally learned how to deal with them.

Extreme diets and exercise programs can cause more harm than good, experts warn

“Someone once told me that the more she sweats, the more fat she will lose, and that if she is not sweating heavily, her workout will not work. I said nothing but sympathized with the woman since she was working out wearing a hoodie in the scorching heat of Jeddah.”

Khalid said that people “should just listen to their bodies” to judge if a workout or diet is right for them.

HIGHLIGHTS

• Yumna Khalid, a 23-year-old university student, said that people ‘should just listen to their bodies’ to judge if a workout or diet is right for them.

• Nouf Hamdallah, a fitness trainer with nine years’ experience, said ‘the problem with these people is that they think what they are doing is the only right way. ‘They should just focus on themselves and not spread information that they aren’t sure about.’

• Suliman Abduljawad, a Guinness world record holder in fitness, said ‘one of the mistaken things that people are trading is that the female body is harder to train — that’s not true, it’s a simple science.’

“The body has a way of telling you. Do the workout that makes you feel good during and afterwards. If a workout or a diet feels wrong then just don’t do it. Listen to your body and you will be set.”

She added: “But listen to it when it is being reasonable and not at 3 a.m. when you want to eat eight donuts and a tub of ice cream.”

Casey Ho, a YouTuber who has been uploading home workout videos since 2009, was subjected to a wave of hate after announcing that she wanted to lose weight and get in the best shape of her life.

In her video, titled “How I lost 17.5 pounds in 12 weeks — My 90-Day Journey,” she said: “No, I don’t have an eating disorder. No, I don’t have a body image disorder. No, I don’t hate myself and, no, this journey wasn’t for you — it was for me.”

In a podcast called Off the Pills, Ho said that the body positive movement has grown so much over the years that now if someone wants to lose weight and look a certain way, they are labeled “anti-body positive” and kicked out of the community.

Returning to unhealthy habits is not the answer, she said. “It is a commitment of a lifetime.”

The trainer urged gym-goers to avoid training others if they are unqualified, adding that there was a big chance the advice might be harmful. (Shutterstock)

Nouf Hamdallah, a fitness trainer with nine years’ experience, said: “The problem with these people is that they think what they are doing is the only right way. They should just focus on themselves and not spread information that they aren’t sure about.”

According to Hamdallah, the best way to deal with such people is to ask: “What is the source of the information?”

She added: “They will think back on what they have said and if they do have a genuine source, you can take their advice.”

The trainer also urged gym-goers to avoid training others if they are unqualified, adding that there was a big chance the advice might be harmful.

Hamdallah said that a healthy lifestyle is about changing habits little by little, and is not about following a particular diet. “People tend to get the two mixed.

For a healthy life, it’s just a caloric deficit, physical activity and enough sleep. It’s very simple.”

The trainer defined her personal experience as a series of trial and error, and said that still tries new approaches and methods in her diet and during her workouts.

She also said that her schedules are flexible, and she will not force herself to do something that does not feel right.

Depending on body type, results can take up to a year to show, while sometimes it is just three months, Hamdallah added.

I believe that a lot of Saudis can break a lot of records. I’ve seen the potential they have, but I think they just don’t know how to do it. I am more than happy to guide and help them.

Suliman Abduljawad, Guinness world record holder in fitness

However, according to Khalid, adopting a healthier lifestyle is not as tricky as it sometimes appears.

“I promise you, a healthy lifestyle isn’t just boiled chicken breast and white rice or a sad piece of bread. Now, more than ever, you can find delicious foods on the internet that is so good that you won’t even miss the sugar-filled or fried foods that you crave.”

Khalid said that she was discouraged because people kept telling her that she was eating, drinking and exercising the wrong way, and she was not seeing results in fitness. She later discovered that it takes time to change.

“That is OK. I have my own pace and I am happy with that,” she said.

Adding to the warnings, a Saudi champ has joined the fight against fitness myths

Suliman Abduljawad, a Guinness world record holder in fitness, joined social media to campaign for better messaging around fitness and exercise.

“I have heard a lot of wrong facts and tips about sports. A lot of people on social media don’t have a certificate in fitness, and I see them advising people based on their personal experience and not studies,” he told Arab News.

Abduljawad said that he decided to step in and educate people about the “rights and wrongs” of training.

The fitness champ said that he receives messages every day from followers asking him about information they read online.

Female personal trainers in Saudi Arabia are expensive compared with other countries because of the myths, he said.

“One of the mistaken things that people are trading is that the female body is harder to train — that’s not true, it’s a simple science,” Abduljawad said.

He also rejects the claim that training is bad for children. “I have a son, I cannot wait until he is 3 years old to train him. People say that children should not train, which is wrong. Their training is fun and they will enjoy it.”

Abduljawad said that he read Guinness World Records books as a child and wondered why there were no Saudi record-holders. It was then that he decided to work hard on himself.

He eventually broke two world records after a long journey — one in side jump push-up and one in archer push-up in 2020.

“I believe that a lot of Saudis can break a lot of records. I’ve seen the potential they have, but I think they just don’t know how to do it. I am more than happy to guide and help them.”

Abduljawad offers online training and dreams of having his own gym one day. “I’m aiming break 10 more world records.”


Hundreds of volunteers help clean up Jeddah beaches

The group organized the event to mark World Cleanup Day, one of the biggest global civic movements,  in an effort to achieve a cleaner planet. (Supplied)
The group organized the event to mark World Cleanup Day, one of the biggest global civic movements, in an effort to achieve a cleaner planet. (Supplied)
Updated 20 September 2021

Hundreds of volunteers help clean up Jeddah beaches

The group organized the event to mark World Cleanup Day, one of the biggest global civic movements,  in an effort to achieve a cleaner planet. (Supplied)
  • They cleared 50,000 items of trash during event organized by a bloggers’ group to mark World Cleanup Day

JEDDAH: More than 500 people helped to clean up Khaleej Salman and Alexandria beaches in Jeddah on Saturday during an event organized by Hejaz Ploggers, a Saudi community group.

The volunteers picked up trash from the beach, while 20 divers removed waste from the seabed. Altogether, more than 50,000 discarded items were removed.
The group organized the event to mark World Cleanup Day on Sept. 18, one of the biggest global civic movements, which spans 180 countries in an effort to achieve a cleaner planet.
“We are a committed team united to restore the environmental dimension into our lifestyles, and ultimately shape and build sustainable habits that improve the quality of life around the vast demographic,” Hejaz Ploggers organizer Ruaa Mahmoud told Arab News. “In the end, we produce a better culture that can sustain its being across the centuries ahead.”

Saudi Vision 2030 is playing a big role in environmental issues through improvements to laws and regulations, and the promotion of recycling and use of sustainable products. It aims to develop eco-friendly practices that can lessen our footprint on the environment to boost the ecotourism sector.

Ruaa Mahmoud, Hejaz Ploggers organizer

She said that Saudi Vision 2030 is playing a big role in environmental issues through improvements to laws and regulations, and the promotion of recycling and use of sustainable products.
“It aims to develop eco-friendly practices that can lessen our footprint on the environment to boost the ecotourism sector,” she added.
As the Kingdom aims to develop and grow its tourism sector, Mahmoud believes efforts to improve and maintain a cleaner environment will play a key role in achieving this. This motivated the members of the ploggers’ group to take action and use their skills and public profile for the greater good.
“Plogging is heavily involved in physical activity, coupled with culture, sustainability and national tourism,” said Mahmoud.
Group members will continue to use their influence in an effort to promote positive change, she added.
“We have amazing stuff in store, from World Volunteer Day to breast cancer awareness and so much more, to celebrate international days relating to the common good of Saudi society,” she said.


Saudi Education Ministry passes key test with over 90% of staff, students vaccinated

Ministry of Education used its capabilities to prepare schools for the new school year by organizing field tours and visits to monitor progress. (SPA)
Ministry of Education used its capabilities to prepare schools for the new school year by organizing field tours and visits to monitor progress. (SPA)
Updated 20 September 2021

Saudi Education Ministry passes key test with over 90% of staff, students vaccinated

Ministry of Education used its capabilities to prepare schools for the new school year by organizing field tours and visits to monitor progress. (SPA)
  • The ministry launched the central exam platform to measure the achievement level of students learning in-person and remotely, and enforce skills enhancement tests for public education from the second primary school grade to the first year of high school

JEDDAH: The Saudi Ministry of Education has achieved one of its five main targets following the start of the new school year after increasing the COVID-19 immunization rate of staff by 96.92 percent and students aged over 12 by 90.5 percent.
Other targets set by the authority include regularizing the in-person educational process while implementing precautionary measures, and completing updated requirements of the educational environment and its readiness for use in schools.
Additionally, the ministry now measures student achievement levels through organizing skills enhancement tests at the central exam platform, and is deepening relationships with families and parents to contribute to the educational journey of children.
The increase in immunization rates enhances the safe return to in-person learning, helps the education sector in achieving herd immunity and complements nationwide efforts.
The ministry urged all education sector employees to receive two COVID-19 vaccine doses, and enforce the precautionary measures and health requirements adopted by the Saudi Health Ministry and the Public Health Authority in all educational institutes.
It is the fourth week in the Kingdom of students attending classes in middle and high school, while students in primary school are studying remotely through the Madrasati platform.

HIGHLIGHTS

• The ministry urged all education sector employees to receive two COVID-19 vaccine doses, and enforce the precautionary measures and health requirements adopted by the Saudi Health Ministry and the Public Health Authority in all educational institutes.

• The ministry launched the central exam platform to measure the achievement level of students learning in-person and remotely, and enforce skills enhancement tests for public education from the second primary school grade to the first year of high school.

The Ministry of Education also used its capabilities to prepare schools for the new school year by organizing field tours and visits to monitor progress.
It provided materials for the implementation of precautionary measures, such as masks, sanitizers and thermometers, and finished the delivery of textbooks to students.
Moreover, schools performed simulation models of precautionary measure rollouts before the start of the school year, and increased readiness in transport services.
The ministry launched the central exam platform to measure the achievement level of students learning in-person and remotely, and enforce skills enhancement tests for public education from the second primary school grade to the first year of high school.
It reported that more than 3.5 million students in 14 days used the platform, demonstrating that digital educational processes can contribute to improving student performance and the overall educational structure.
The ministry praised its relationship with parents and their role in preparing children for the new school year, reassuring them of the safety and preparedness of the Kingdom’s educational system.