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Banks caution customers over fake text messages

Scam messages
Scam messages

Muscat: Banks in the Sultanate of Oman have warned their customers of a spam message that's taking rounds on mobile phones seeking the customer to part with vital numbers that appear on the phones, apparently part of a money swindling attempt.

A WhatsApp message from a number with respective Bank's logo that warns the customers that their ATM is blocked/ will be blocked due to an unidentified transaction by the customer and would advise the customer to get in touch with a number mentioned in the message.

A senior banker advised all customers who use banks' services not to respond to these messages, instead, block the number immediately.

"One should, upon receiving such a message, block the sender's number and alert us. We will report it to our management to take action," she said.

When a panicked customer responds to such a message by calling them back, he/she would be guided through various bank policies and packages in their language to win the trust and ask for their account number followed by an OTP (One Time Password).

"This is where the real problem starts. By getting their account number and the OTP to establish a new password, spamsters are all set to rip the customer of his/her savings in few seconds," says Samir al Hajri, an IT expert.

A message received by the customer who was about to part with the bank account by calling them back reads thus:

"Dear Customer, your ATM has been blocked at any ATM machine as you have not updated yet. If you want your ATM card to work properly, then contact this number immediately 78671016".

Many customers have fallen prey to such unscrupulous messages and lost their funds.

"I lost nearly RO 1,700 when I acted according to what the person said on phone," says Narendra Naik, supervisor of a cleaning company.

Banks have reiterated their customers not to share their banking details with anyone, and not to respond by calling unknown numbers.

"The bank will never ask you for PIN, OTP, CVV, Card Number, Account Details or Password over phone, SMS, WhatsApp or through a web link. Whenever required, kindly call only Bank's Contact Centre numbers," a warning message sent by a bank reads.

The Royal Oman Police (ROP) has alerted of such spams taking place from time to time.

"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, one shouldn't act immediately. Without getting worried, contact the bank on any channel and if one doesn't know, approach anyone who knows about banking transactions and online spams," Al Hajri adds.

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