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Social media scams: TRA calls for regulations, awareness

- The ROP urges users to report fraudulent messages immediately and avoid falling victim to financial scams - Authorities are discussing standards and regulations inspired by the EU to properly organise social media applications

MUSCAT: The Telecom Regulatory Authority (TRA) has emphasised the severity of social media scams, urging the implementation of regulations and awareness campaigns to prevent criminal gangs from exploiting the system.

These scams, promising dream jobs or monetary rewards through deceptive links, pose significant financial risks to individuals and establishments worldwide, including in the Sultanate of Oman.

Omar al Ismaili, CEO of TRA, highlighted the non-compliance of popular social media companies such as WhatsApp, TikTok, and Instagram with local authorities' requirements in the region. Until joint regulations are established, awareness campaigns remain the primary means of protecting end users in the country. Notably, these social networking applications' lack of licensing in Oman is one of the reasons why encrypted WhatsApp calls continue to be blocked, with users resorting to virtual private networks (VPNs) to bypass restrictions.

The TRA's market indicators for the second half of 2022 revealed a 12 per cent increase in Facebook users compared to the previous half-year. Fraudsters exploit platforms like Facebook to engage with people and deceive them into fraudulent transactions or interactions.

Regional authorities are currently discussing standards and regulations for the proper organisation of these applications, taking inspiration from successful measures implemented by the European Union.

Al Ismaili urged people to refrain from sharing personal details via social media and clarified that no banks would ever ask for such information through these platforms. The CEO also cautioned against fraudulent messages offering jobs with high salaries and the subsequent request to open bank accounts for money transfers.

The Royal Oman Police (ROP) echoed this warning, advising users to report such fraudulent messages immediately and avoid falling victim to financial scams.

Experts warn that social media scams can lead to various types of fraud, including financial losses and the compromise of personal information.

Fraudsters utilise emails and platforms like WhatsApp to deceive individuals into revealing sensitive data such as bank account details and passwords, which can be exploited for illegal purposes. Recently, the ROP's Directorate-General of Criminal Investigation uncovered a new criminal method involving the Imo app, where a fake ROP account targeted citizens and residents, tricking them into providing bank account information for subsequent cash withdrawals.

Furthermore, cybersecurity solutions provider Kaspersky highlighted a new wave of phishing scams on LinkedIn, targeting individuals in the Middle East, Turkiye, and Africa (META) region.

Cybercriminals posing as HR managers from high-end fashion brands entice victims with promises of dream jobs. Specifically, professionals in digital marketing and sales are prime targets. The scammers initiate contact on LinkedIn, offering lucrative salary packages before sharing malicious links and persuading candidates to download fraudulent documents from cloud storage platforms, ultimately aiming to steal credentials for Facebook Business accounts and generate monetary gain.

In light of these threats, the TRA stresses the urgent need for regulations governing social media platforms and comprehensive awareness campaigns to protect individuals and businesses from falling prey to scams.


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