MUSCAT: The phone scam net is widening, with fraudsters deploying new tactics to ensnare people.

The bait is sometimes too tempting to resist, like in a Monday incident wherein a Muscat resident was lured with a grand lottery prize and duped.

Babu Joseph, a businessman, lost all of the RO190 he had in his bank after receiving a call which said he had won RO20,000 in an Omantel draw.

Joseph said he received the call from a local number. “The man said he was calling from Omantel and convincingly announced that I had won RO20,000. I just had to follow his instructions to claim the reward, the caller said.”

Joseph was first asked to give the number mentioned behind his SIM card. When he couldn’t provide the caller this, he was asked for his bank account number.

Not suspecting a fraud, Joseph provided the bank details. “The caller then told me to go to an ATM and check the balance.”

It all sounded very authentic to Joseph. But when he checked, the RO20,000 hadn’t been credited. “When I told the caller this, he asked me to go to the main menu on the ATM screen and use the top up option for RO10. I tried that but the balance only kept diminishing.” It was only after 19 attempts at topping up and losing what was in his account that Joseph realised that he had been duped.

Haider Jawad Sultan, senior media and press spokesperson for Omantel said, “We are aware of such scams and this is really unfortunate that our customer lost money. We have warned people several times that they should not reply to such calls or messages.” He added, “If there are contests or any competitions by Omantel we would announce it to the public through proper channels like newspapers, radios and our official social media. We would also SMS people through proper channels. We request people not to fall for such calls and not respond to them.”

He mentioned that Omantel is passing on such complaints to the Telecommunications Regulatory Authority.

A spokesperson from Ooredoo stated, “We’re aware of an increase in the number of scam calls and messages circulating, particularly in relation to winning a cash prize. We’d like to let people know these messages are not genuine and we are investigating them.”

The Ooredoo website has stated the precautions customers can take. The statement says, “If you are not sure about a call, it’s a scam call or message, please ignore the message and don’t respond to it. Please don’t provide any personal or financial information over the phone or by SMS. Just to let you know that Ooredoo will never ask for money in order to award you with prizes.”

In case a customer becomes a prey to scam the company has suggested them to report it immediately.

“You can also let us know any details of the call or message so that we can investigate it,” the statement said.

SOURCE: Muscat Daily