While the usage of online payment solutions has risen, consumers must be aware of the risks and ensure they protect their data
The year 2020 was exceptional in every sense of the word due to the circumstances imposed by the coronavirus Covid-19. People’s attitudes, ideas, habits, traditions, social relationships, and behaviour have all changed.
One area where the change has been considerably visible is when it comes to shopping habits – especially when it comes to payment methods. The rate of online purchases of products have increased significantly, with e-wallets and credit cards emerging as an effective alternative for consumers instead of conventional wallets and cash due to the health considerations.
Credit cards are considered a safe way for commercial dealings in light of the warnings about the transmission of the virus through cash, which in turn is reflected in the growth of the global e-commerce market. Many companies have turned to online options to try and sell their products electronically, either out of conviction or due to the circumstances.
But while consumers have been active in using their e-wallets, fraudsters have also started increasing their nefarious activities by targeting online users in various ways, whether through fake commercial ads, contacting consumers by impersonating banks and companies and requesting personal data, or even by using various applications and sending a message impersonating par- ties and institutions.
This is legally known as cybercrime. The UAE has aggressively countered the issue and conducted several activities to raise awareness through various entities and institutions, including police, banks and others.
On the legal side, it has also enforced strict penalties which will serve as a deterrent to anyone who thinks about exploiting the inter- net to steal people’s wallets.
Those found guilty can face imprisonment for a period of not less than a year, a fine of between Dhs200,000 and Dhs1m, or either of these two penalties.
This penalty has been explicitly stated in article 12 of the federal decree-law No. (5) of 2012 in the matter of combating information technology crimes, which states: “Shall be punished by imprisonment and a fine or either of these two penalties who- ever gains access, without legal right, to credit or electronic card numbers or data or to bank account numbers or data or any other electronic payment method by using the computer network or an electronic information system or any information technology means. The punishment shall be imprisonment for a period of at least six months and a fine of not less than Dhs100,000 and not in excess of Dhs300,000 or either of these two penalties, if it is intended to use the data and numbers to take over the funds of others or benefit from the services which they provide. If the person takes over the funds of others whether for himself or for others, he shall be punished by imprisonment for a period of at least one year, and a fine of not less than Dhs200,000 and not in excess of Dhs1m or either of these two penalties.”
Although the punishment is a local deterrent, it stands helpless in the event that the fraudster is in a country other than the country of the victim, so the magic solution remains in being fully aware of how we use our e-wallets. We should also avoid dealing with unreliable sites or give the passwords or hand over our credit cards to anyone as that will ensure that our data is protected.
Yousuf Mohammed Hassan Al Bahar is the senior partner and advocate at Al Bahar and Associates