Visa Study Reveals 90% of UAE Consumers Surveyed are at Risk of Responding to Scammers 

  • “Costly confidence” revealed as 61% of respondents claim to be scam-savvy, but 9 in 10 are likely to miss common fraud warning signs
  • Fifty-one percent are concerned that friends or family will fall for a scam, with 77% likely to respond to a positive message from fraudsters 
  • Visa and Dubai Police launch Stay Secure awareness campaign to equip consumers with the knowledge and skills to recognize and prevent fraud  

Dubai, United Arab Emirates—December 7, 2023—Over-confidence is leaving consumers in UAE open to becoming victims of fraud, according to Visa’s annual Stay Secure study released today. Despite more than half of respondents (61% vs. 56% global average) claiming to be savvy enough to sidestep online and phone scams, the reality is that nine out of ten (90%; similar to global) are likely to disregard the warning signs that suggest online criminal activity.

Conducted by Wakefield Research in countries across Central and Eastern Europe, the Middle East and Africa (CEMEA), Visa’s 2023 Stay Secure Study¹ finds that just over one in two people (54%) in the UAE has been a victim of a scam at least once compared to the global average of 52%.  Even more alarming is that 17% of the victims have been tricked multiple times, against the global average of 15%.

“In today’s digital-first world, scams are evolving in sophistication with criminals using new approaches to trick unsuspecting consumers. Whether it’s a parcel held up at customs, a streaming subscription claiming to have expired, or a free voucher for a favorite brand, scammers are adopting extremely persuasive tactics to deceive their victims. With the rapid growth in digital payments, it is essential now more than ever that consumers in the UAE understand the language of fraud and act with a high level of caution. We thank our partners at Dubai Police for their support in bringing our important education campaign to local consumers,” explains Neil Fernandes, Visa's Head of Risk for Middle East and North Africa

The Stay Secure Study is a part of Visa’s annual Stay Secure Campaign, which reflects Visa’s commitment to raising consumer awareness, strengthening education, and building confidence to combat social engineering threats. The campaign aims to pave the way for a secure and seamless digital payments experience. 

“Costly Confidence”: The Disconnect Between Awareness and Action

Key Findings of the Visa Stay Secure Study:

  • Knowledgeable or naïve. It is concerning that those who consider themselves more knowledgeable are more likely to respond to a requested action from scammers compared to those who say they are less knowledgeable, including a positive news (79% to 74% for UAE vs global 74% to 67%) or urgent action (72% to 61% for UAE vs global 65% to 55%).
  • People worry about the vulnerability of others. While respondents feel confident in their own vigilance, over half (51% vs. 52% globally) are concerned that their friends or families will fall for a scam email offering a free gift card or product from an online shopping site. Over a third (33%; vs 36% global) of respondents are concerned about children or minors, as well as retired people falling prey to online scams. 
  • What makes people suspicious. In addition to notices involving orders, product offers, or feedback, people are most suspicious of password requests. Less suspicious types of communications are updates regarding delivery or shipping (just 45% listed as a top three source of suspicion; 42% globally), marketing communications regarding a sale or new product offering (44% vs. global 41%), or an invitation to provide feedback on a recent experience (42% vs global 37%) – all of which can be used by scammers.
  • Overlooking telltale signs. Only 60% (vs global 57%) reported looking to ensure a communication is sent from a valid email address, while 51% (vs global 52%) will check if the company name or logo was attached to the message. Fewer than half of correspondents look for an order number (40%; global 45%) or an account number (45%; global 43%). Interestingly, only 29% vs 33% globally look to ensure words are spelt correctly.  

Decoding The Language of Fraud

Scammers try different approaches to craft messages that appear genuine and compel recipients to take immediate action. The Visa Stay Secure Study identified prevalent patterns in the language most associated with scams – and how vulnerable respondents in the surveyed countries are. 

  • Orchestrating Urgency: Cybercriminals often feign urgency to spur people into action, such as clicking a link or responding to a sender. Up to 37% of respondents (compared to 40% globally) will fall for messages about a security risk, such as a stolen password or a data breach, while a notice from a government entity or law enforcement can trick 35% (vs 36% global).
  • Sharing Positive News: 77% (vs 71% global) of respondents would take action if a message had a positive hook, like “free gift,” “you’ve been selected,” or “you’re a winner.” Gen Zers are more likely to act on a giveaway (38% vs 39% global) than a notice from the government (30% vs 31% global), while 42% (vs 44% global) of respondents would click on a link or reply to a message that offered a financial opportunity. 
  •  Action Required: 66% (vs 60% globally) would respond to action-required phrases though respondents are most suspicious of requests to reset their password. 

Spot The Signs: Education and Awareness to Catch Scams in Action

The survey corresponds with the launch of Visa's eight annual "Stay Secure" social media campaign on Facebook and Instagram (@VisaMiddleEast, @DubaiPolicehq) in partnership with Dubai Police. 

Consumers can better protect themselves by taking a few extra moments before clicking, including understanding the language scammers use. 

Among simple but effective best practices: 

  • Keep personal account information to yourself
  • Don’t click on links before verifying that they’ll take you where they say they will.
  • Regularly check purchase alerts, which provide near real-time notification by text message or email of purchases made with your account.
  •  Call the number on corporate websites or the back of your credit and debit cards if you are unsure if a communication is valid.

Visit Visa’s Stay Secure Page to learn about the language of fraud and how to avoid being a victim of widespread scams. 

About Visa’s Commitment to Protecting Payments and Commerce Ecosystem 

While cybercrime persists in an increasingly digital world, Visa is tirelessly working behind the scenes to stay one step ahead. Worldwide, we have invested over $10 billion over the past five years in technology, including to reduce fraud and enhance network security. This has included $500 million on Artificial Intelligence (AI) and data infrastructure, enabling us to power 100 different capabilities that use AI to protect our clients and customers. More than a thousand dedicated specialists protect Visa’s network from malware, zero-day attacks and insider threats 24x7x365. In fact, over the last year alone, Visa proactively prevented $27.1 billion in potential fraud.

1 Visa’s Stay Secure Methodology - Online research surveyed 5,800 adults (ages 18+) in 17 countries, including the United Arab Emirates, Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Kuwait, Oman, Bahrain, Egypt, Pakistan, Tunisia, Morocco, Nigeria, Kenya, South Africa, Côte d'Ivoire, Ukraine, Kazakhstan, and Serbia. Conducted throughout March-April 2023.