criminal law

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January 13, 2022

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Identity theft can be very simply defined as the crime of obtaining personal or financial information of another person with the intention of using their identity in order to commit fraud. The fraudster in such circumstances may use the stolen identity to commit various fraud, such as unauthorized online transactions or purchases or others.

UAE law on identity theft:

Identity theft constitutes a criminal offence in the UAE, and it can be treated as a misdemeanour or felony depending on the severity of the offence. Punishment can result in an imprisonment sentence from three years to even a thirty-year duration.

Pursuant to Article 399 of the Federal law no (3) of 1987 on the issuance of the penal code ("UAE Penal Code")"Detention or a fine shall be imposed upon anyone who seizes, for himself or for another, a movable property, or obtains a document or signature thereon, cancellation or destruction thereof or amendment thereto by fraudulent means, or by assuming a false name or capacity, where such an act leads to deception of a victim and leads him to surrender….".

The data that is stolen could be anything, including a birth certificate, identification cards, licenses, certificates, medical data, insurance detail, baking and other financial information. With the advent of the internet and social media channels, it has become even easier to commit identity thefts as well as to impersonate someone else online. Hence these acts also fall within the purview of Law number 5 of 2012 on combating cybercrimes. Article 9 of the said law states that, "whoever uses a fraudulent computer network by using a false address or a third-party address by any means for the purpose of committing a crime shall be punished with imprisonment and a fine not less than AED 50,000 and not more than AED 500,000."

How to prevent Identity thefts:

Following precautionary measures should be undertaken, including:

  • Personal information, including details of emirates id, should not be shared with any person either online or through phone calls etc. This includes your banking information, identifying card details, pin codes and security questions and answers etc.
  • Social media privacy protection should be a key parameter.
  • Phone calls that seek personal information should not be entertained as they can be a scam. The UAE banks do not require any personal information to be provided on call.
  • Ensure security of the cards pin and wifi payment access.
  • Regular monitoring of transaction alerts from banks and also a periodical review of monthly bank statements should be cultivated as a second habit.

In today's times, there are an increasing number of fake and fraudulent websites employing methods to collect sensitive data such as details of the bank accounts and the identity of the users. UAE has seen an increase in the number of cyber-attacks on smartphone users, with 68,063 cyber-attacks being recorded in 2020. Although these numbers are relatively low when compared with other regions of the middle east, such as Saudi Arabia, which has recorded 160,000 while Egypt records 220,000. It is critical that one remains cautious of such attacks and take effort to practice the precautionary measures. It is also critical that any instance of a data breach is immediately reported.

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