Scholars scammed by fake international poverty conference at nonexistent Dubai hotel!
Stolen photos of glamorous hotels in Dubai add to the scam. (AFP/File)
After luring unsuspecting job-seekers with outlandish salaries using fake employment offers, conmen in Dubai are now targeting working academics and scholars from abroad. Their bait – an invitation to present papers in Dubai at an international conference on ending extreme poverty.
But there is a problem. There is no such conference taking place anywhere in the city and the Dubai hotel where the foreign delegates are supposed to stay doesn’t exist.
In fact, the only presence it has is in the virtual world and XPRESS can reveal the Husniya International Hotel website has been created with pictures and content stolen from sites of popular Dubai hotels including a five star luxury retreat on the Palm.
Not just detailed sections on the hotel’s restaurant offerings, the portal – created earlier this month in Dakar, Senegal – even has photographs of guests enjoying sight-seeing tours across Dubai and top events like Sandance.
The charade is so convincing anyone outside of Dubai could easily fall for it.
As did Sunil A, a professor of management studies at a reputed university in Shillong, India who, on May 20, received an email invite to present a paper at the ‘International Conference on Ending Extreme Poverty & Children’s Rights In Education (CEEPCRIE 2016)’ due to be held in New York, USA from August 17 to 20 and then from August 23 to 27 in the UAE.
It’s another thing that the real event is known as International Conferences on Ending Extreme Poverty (ICEEP) whose next chapter is due on May 30 in New York.
After six venues across the USA, the real conference travels to India but Dubai doesn’t figure in the itinerary.
Potential ‘delegates’ like Sunil were promised an all-expenses paid trip including entire stay in the US, return air tickets and visa charges but all they had to do to confirm a ‘seat’ was to pay for their five nights stay in Dubai.
“I wasn’t really bothered much about paying 350 euros (Dh1,435) for the Dubai leg as everything else was taken care of and I thought it was such a huge honour to address an international conference in two global cities,” he said.
“However, on second thought I went online to do little a research and found several stories by XPRESS on how conmen in Dubai had in the past scammed teachers and other job seekers using fake websites. That’s when I realised it could be another scam and contacted the newspaper,” he added.
Neither etisalat’s directory services nor Google maps could locate the hotel whose phony website pins its location to a spot off Al Kabeer Street near Deira’s Baniyas Square.
Intriguingly, the only phone number provided on the website is that of a mobile phone that has remained unreachable since Tuesday.
When XPRESS called the number on Monday posing as a customer wanting to book a room for a night, a man in a thick West African accent responded, saying: “Don’t ask me questions. Top up my number with Dh20 first and then we talk.”
The conversation has been recorded.
That the fraudsters are from Senegal, however, was confirmed when Sunil was advised in a separate email to make a money transfer for the hotel payment to a ‘branch’ in Africa.
“You can send your payment to our branch in African Continent, Senegal precisely as we are having a little intermittency for now regarding our bank account here in UAE. As soon as your payment is confirmed in our branch in Senegal you will receive your hotel booking confirmation receipt immediately without any delay(sic),” said the email from a certain Abdulazeez Ibrahim, supposedly the reservation manager of the purported Husniyah International Hotel.
By Abhishek Sengupta