Banks have begun limiting the amount on online phone recharge and started strengthening security following a raft of complaints from hapless victims conned in recharge scams.
At least three banks operating in the UAE have reduced the amount of credit by which customers can recharge pre-paid phones, XPRESS has learnt. Many banks are also using one time passwords (OTP) (see box) to beef up security.
ADCB has reduced the maximum top-up amount using the phone banking system from Dh10,000 to Dh200. Citibank has set the phone-banking phone credit recharge limit at Dh250.
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Emirates NBD also confirmed reducing the pre-paid phone recharge amount through its interactive voice response (IVR) system to Dh500.
Abdul Elah Al Kindi, General Manager, Retail Banking, Emirates NBD, said: "The maximum amount for pre-paid phone credit through Emirates NBD is Dh500 per transaction. In addition, we have also introduced a per-day limit."
A Dh10,000 per-day limit for all utility payments has been adopted, he said, adding: "We continue to have ongoing enhancements to these security measures."
Spooky mobile phone recharge scams have seen many lose big money - the largest amount being Dh121,000 - money earmarked for the education of a victim's son - from 135 unauthorised phone recharges on his account.
On April 24, police arrested five members of a gang who obtained 200 pre-paid SIM cards using forged trading licences, passports, residency permits and stamps in Abu Dhabi.
They were working jointly with local phone retail shops to pull off illegal phone credit balance transfers.
A spokesperson for etisalat said it's up to banks to take preventive action. "We only provide the infrastructure. This [recharge scam] is an issue the banks have to resolve within themselves."
What is OTP?
An OTP is a password that is valid for only one log-in session or transaction. Some UAE banks send it through a customer's mobile phone. If an intruder records an OTP that was used to log into a service or conduct a transaction, he or she will not be able to abuse it since it will no longer be valid.