Bahrain sounds bogus e-mail prizes alert
Manama, February 24, 2008
A new warning has gone out in Bahrain against an international scam which tricks people into parting with money to claim bogus fortunes.
The latest scams involve mobile phone text messages or emails, telling people they have won huge cash prizes - but they must pay to claim them.
One leading Bahrain exchange house has already intervened to stop customers sending money to the tricksters, but says many have been conned.
Some have even sent the money anyway, despite being warned that they are being tricked.
Nonoo Exchange has put up notices at all its branches cautioning customers not to send money to anyone who they do not know.
The caution follows a spate of SMS people have been receiving on their mobile phones over the last few weeks, telling them their mobile number has won the £200,000 ($393,321).
'The message recipient is then encouraged to call an international number (in the UK), from where he is told to send a 'commission' so that the funds can be released,' said Nonoo Exchange director Clive Turpin.
'We have seen in many cases some people sending money again and again after repeated calls from the overseas scamsters, in the hope they get the promised bonanza.
'But that never happens.' Turpin said he and his cashiers had even been shouted at by customers who feel they are being prevented from getting access to a fortune which is rightfully theirs.
'I have seen most of the victims are poor Bahrainis who have remitted large sums of money,' he said.
'The cash is always remitted through instant money transfer instruments like Western Union, MoneyGram or some other instant person to person cash transfer.'
Turpin said he had no knowledge how many people had actually fallen victim to the scam, but that the exchange house had tried to prevent many from doing so.
'We try and make them listen but in the end, if they do not, we cannot do anything. It is their money,' he said.
'There has recently been a proliferation of lottery and Internet scams in Bahrain and I have seen the poor victims first hand,' he said.
'We think what we are doing is good, never mind if we are being shouted at on several occasions.'
What normally happens is that the victim calls the number which is answered by someone with a heavy African accent.
'He explains that the victim has won this lottery but commissions need to be paid to release the funds,' said Turpin.
'The victim is asked to remit these commissions via Western Union, MoneyGram, or some other instant person-to-person cash transfer.
'One call leads to another, always asking for a little more money due to this or that problem.'
Turpin has also received a text message - supposedly from Nokia, reading 'CONGRATULATIONS!!! Your Mobile no has won £220,000 in the ongoing NOKIA MOBILE PROMO. For claims call: +44-704-572-9889 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.'
'This is very similar to messages I have seen on customers phones,' he said.
'The other scam comes from e-mails which lead the victim to an Internet site where cheap goods, often telephones, are available.
'Again the victim is asked to send payment by one of these instant cash transfer systems. Money is sent and collected and the goods, of course, are never shipped.'
The general manager of another large exchange house in Bahrain said he was aware of the scam, but could do nothing about it. -TradeArabia News Service