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Cyber extortion cases on the rise in UAE

Increasing use of smart technology has led to the rise in cyber extortion cases in the UAE, officials have said, adding that almost 200 cases of online blackmail were registered with police this year in Sharjah alone.

“Our online patrol departments monitor an average of 18 to 22 cases per month. Those cases are followed up on and, if there was criminal activity, we proceed with a criminal investigation,” Col. Ibrahim Al Ajel, director of the Criminal Investigation Department in Sharjah, said during a forum on ‘Risks of Cyber Extortion’.

Sharjah Police have also warned citizens and residents against disclosing personal information and bank account numbers and being lured by misleading ads on the web, reported Gulf News.

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

“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],” Al Ajel reportedly said.

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, 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, Al Ajel was quoted as saying.

Dr. Saud Al Khalid, from Dubai Police’s Criminal Investigation Department (CIDG), reportedly 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.”

A number of senior police officers from Sharjah Police and representatives of government institutions attended the forum, reported Gulf News.

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