Sinan al Zadjali, who was about to transfer RO 500 to her friend Fatma al Balushi when she received a panic message from her WhatsApp account that she needed immediate financial assistance. She was saved due to the common sense of her other friend, who advised not to proceed with the request, as the request sounded fake to her.
As per the fake request, Fatma was stranded in a foreign land where she was holidaying when she lost her belongings, money, cards, and other important things.
Sinan, however, was alerted that the WhatsApp number from which she received the panic message was a bogus account created by some unscrupulous spamster to dupe Fatma.
Added to her bewilderment, she was informed that many of her friends fell prey to the call after blindly trying to help her "stranded" friend.
A senior journalist in Oman also got alerts on Wednesday from many of his friends who noticed some fake Facebook account created in his name. The spamster was asking for some distress money impersonating as the journalist. He immediately informed all his contacts about the fraud move and told them not to respond to the fake call.
The Royal Oman Police (ROP) has alerted all social media users of ongoing spam trying to dupe netizens of their money after cloning or duplicating the social media accounts and WhatsApp account of their close friends.
"There's an ongoing spam attempt currently targeting net users in the Sultanate and we advise all not to transfer cash without reconfirming that your friend is really in need," an ROP source said.
Muraleedharan, an expatriate, was bombarded with calls and messages one fine morning after his near and dear ones began to check with him if he was keeping well.
"I received a message from Muraleedharan's account saying he was stranded somewhere and needed some money. I called him personally to make sure if he was really in need. I was shocked to see his account was duplicated," said Jijin Jith, a dance teacher in Muscat, who added that the cloned version was as good as or even better than the original one.
Cyber experts have sounded warnings when they noticed such online attempts to dupe people online.
"Spamsters feel that Whatsapp is one of the number one platforms where such things can be carried out. The app at the moment has over 2 billion users worldwide and is also ranked as the number one messaging app out there," opines Samir al Hajri, an IT expert.
When such message is received, don't jump the gun. Without panicking, try to reach the friend who is said to have sent the same.
"Call the friend from whom supposedly you got the message, and if he or she is not available, again, don't send the money but try to reach their close friends or relatives. Never transfer money for any deal which you think may be fake. And if possible, please report to the online police service," he added.