The recent arrest of a gang in possession of 166 forged credit cards, valued at AED 16 million, is a stark reminder that consumers should be on the lookout for suspicious behavior on their cards.  The suspects stole client information from banks and changed the phone numbers of the credit card holders so that the victims would not receive any messages from their banks.

The easiest way for consumers to keep an eye out for potential fraud is to periodically check their credit card statements for suspicious transactions.  Another important step is to always keep the relevant credit card issuing company updated with your latest contact information.  R. Sivaram, the Senior Vice President Head of Cards Business at Emirates NBD, said, “These are the sheer basics in protecting yourself but they’re very important.” With the emergence of online banking in the UAE, it has become much easier to check your statements for fraudulent transactions, rather than having to wait for the regular paper statement to arrive by mail.

If a consumer notices any possible fraudulent activity, the bank should be notified immediately.  The institution will then temporarily suspend the card and open an investigation into the matter.  Some banks, such as Emirates NBD, will also refund the transaction(s) while the investigation is under way.  Sivaram noted that card issuers MasterCard and Visa allow for a 45-day window between the time the disputed transaction occurred and the time of reporting by the consumer.

MasterCard and Visa both set rules for banks that must be followed in the event of a possible fraudulent transaction.  A full investigation is a requirement by both card processing companies.  MasterCard and Visa hold the issuing bank liable for skimmed or forged cards. However, if the card has been misplaced or stolen, then the liability lies with the consumer.

Criminals employ various methods to hide the fraud for as long as possible.  Some fraudsters pursue a ‘quiet’ method where small amounts are charged to many cards.  Others change the card holders’ contact information to prevent them from receiving any alerts from the card issuer.  While most banks have systems in place to detect fraud through spending patterns, fraudsters have become more intelligent at making transactions that avoid triggering the detection system.

Although the credit card fraud rate globally is around 0.1%, in a survey by Aite Group and ACI Worldiwde, 36% of respondents in the United Arab Emirates responded that they have experienced card fraud.

Experts can provide numerous tips on how to avoid credit card fraud, but the only foolproof means of protecting yourself is to review every single line of your credit card statement.  At the end of the day, any credit card fraud will involve a thief making a charge on your card, and while it may seem like a tedious task, thoroughly reviewing your statement is an easy measure that can be taken to protect yourself.

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Overview of Banking in the UAE

Tackling Your Credit Card Debt