Warning to users of smartphones

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DUBAI // Smartphone users have been warned not to meet strangers who advertise jobs or ask for donations via BlackBerry Messenger.

Dubai State Security also warned against sending money or private information in response to BlackBerry Messenger (BBM) pings from unknown sources.

The same advice applies to instant messaging applications, such as WhatsApp, that work on other smartphones.

“Bogus job advertisements for government and private companies have been circulated as well as humanitarian relief calls, without stating any official source or entity,” State Security said.

Several complaints have been received on the crime hotline, Al Ameen, that BBM technology was being misused by criminals to lure victims.

“We have found that these delinquents present their personal email addresses on the messages to get to know women and exploit their need for work or humanitarian help,” State Security said.

Users collect CVs and private details of individuals mainly to harass and sexually assault women. Khalid Al Ali received messages on BBM related to blood donations for accident victims.

“With such things I usually try to verify the information and call the sender. At other times you see messages and know they are baseless.”

Mr Al Ali said messages campaigning against products and items were often based on unverified information, such as an incident last year when a BBM message that did the rounds said Mars bars contained pork fat. 

“There was a BBC report that claimed Mars bars had animal fats, which was later recanted, and I started receiving BlackBerry broadcasts about these things months later from people.

Nobody verified this information and people tend to believe such things,” he said. Sham messages have been increasing over the years, according to Dushi Mahesh, from Sri Lanka. “I have been a BlackBerry user for almost four years now and have seen the number of bogus broadcasts increasing,” he said. “I think the people sending these messages are gullible and do not know that they are potentially endangering their security and that of others.”

The Al Ameen hotline was launched in September 2003 to provide a platform for communication between community members and the state security administration within Dubai Police. The public is urged to report any unsolicited messages received via BBM (or through other instant messaging platforms) that ask for personal details or donations. Such incidents can be reported anonymously to Al Ameen on 800 4888 or by SMS to 4444.

Source/credits and thanks to : THE NATIONAL/Awad Mustafa