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PHONE HACKING ALERT: Hi-tech equipment 'being used to steal data'

Bahrain News
Mon, 12 Feb 2018
Sandeep Singh Grewal
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PHONE hackers are using new technology to raid people’s personal accounts while talking to them on their mobile, the GDN has learnt.

Details of the scam were disclosed after police issued a second alert in five days warning the Bahrain public to be on its guard.

Well-placed sources told the GDN that people’s WhatsApp and Facebook accounts were being hacked with hi-tech equipment after they answered calls from strange numbers.


They added there had been a surge in the number of people reporting such cases at police stations in the past two weeks.

“In the past two weeks these scams have increased, with hackers stealing people’s personal details,” sources said on condition of anonymity.

“These hackers are professionals who are using new technology that can hack WhatsApp or Facebook accounts while the person is still talking on the phone.

“In some cases people found their WhatsApp messages deleted.”

Authorities are understood to be investigating scores of cases involving fraudulent calls and text messages.

The Interior Ministry yesterday specifically appealed to the public to ignore hoax phone calls, text messages and e-mails informing them they had won a lottery.

Its Anti-Corruption, Economic and Electronic Security Directorate is urging victims to report such scams through the 992 hotline.

Last week the ministry sent out text messages advising people to be aware of fraudulent communications.

“Stay alert: for phone calls, SMS or repeated emails stating that you won in a raffle and report immediately via the hotline 992,” said a text message sent out by the Interior Ministry last Monday.

Sources said some people were being called and told they had won thousands of dinars, only to discover later that their personal messages had disappeared.

“Once you end the call, all the WhatsApp or Facebook messages are deleted,” they said.

An Asian gang operating from Bahrain or Dubai is believed to be behind at least one of the scams, in which victims are encouraged to transfer money.

“Police stations are increasingly referring such cases to the electronic crimes section, which is carrying out its investigations,” added sources.

“It is believed a gang of Asian men who operate either from Dubai or Bahrain are behind one of these scams that involves wire transfers.

“People in Bahrain are strongly advised not to answer calls from unknown numbers or share their personal details with anyone over the phone because it is a scam.”

Last Tuesday Zain Bahrain issued its own warning to customers instructing them not to respond to fraudulent messages circulated on WhatsApp, which claimed recipients had won cash prizes and asked for personal information such as CPR numbers.

Customers were also asked to provide their WhatsApp verification codes.


VIVA Bahrain has also sent a similar message to customers last week.

“Stay alert: VIVA will never inform you that you have won a prize for BD20,000 on WhatsApp, Viber or other calling applications,” the company told customers in a text message.

“We will only use our official communication channel.”

Earlier this month Bahrain Duty Free also issued a public notice about fraudulent calls and messages being received by its customers, claiming they had won a “substantial prize”.

The call or message asked recipients to pay a fee to claim their supposed reward.