A BAHRAINI royal has managed to shut down more than 350 fake social media accounts, which used her photograph to con people into parting with their cash.
Businesswoman Shaikha Noora bint Khalifa Al Khalifa says she has been reporting more than 20 fake accounts on Facebook and Instagram every day.
The accounts were set up by con artists claiming to raise money for charity on her behalf or advertising phony investment schemes, a scam that has also targeted royals in other Gulf countries.
Those behind the racket are believed to be operating from Jordan and Egypt.
“The entire fake accounts fraud started more than 10 years ago, misusing photographs of Gulf royals,” Shaikha Noora told the GDN in an exclusive interview.
“It then moved to Bahrain about five years ago when my photographs were used.
“The targets of this network of fraudsters are poor people, or those less educated, who fall for this trap and pay anywhere between BD200 to BD500.”
She revealed her image had been used on multiple fake accounts, some created in her name and others using a fake persona.
However, a common theme is that they claim to belong to a princess from Saudi Arabia or another Arab country, who is either fundraising for charity or promoting an investment scheme.
“I have personally received calls from many people in Bahrain and abroad, who transferred money to these fraudsters thinking they were helping a princess,” said Shaikha Noora.
“I filed a complaint at the cyber crime unit in Bahrain and the source of all these fake accounts was found in Jordan and Egypt.”
The GDN has identified several fake Instagram accounts set up in Shaikha Noora’s name, as well as a phony Facebook account urging people to invest as much as $4,500 a week.
“Some say I am a government official or head of an art gallery, while others ask the public for money – stating that I am stuck in New York and need help,” she revealed.
“This is an organised campaign targeting the public through fake investment schemes and asking money in the name of phony charities.
“I have reported more than 350 fake Instagram accounts so far.”
Other bogus accounts promise jobs and visas in exchange for cash and Shaikha Noora said some victims had called her office demanding their money back.
She also shared a list of more than 30 individuals allegedly behind fake Facebook accounts, which used her image to seek donations of between $2,000 and $10,000 – on the false premise of helping Syrian children, displaced Yemeni families and refugees.
“I noticed while closing down these fake accounts that they follow others promoting black magic, which claim to be able to solve people’s financial and personal problems,” said Shaikha Noora.
“People should be aware of this social media scam.
“I have also received calls from people who question why I am threatening or blackmailing them, when I have nothing to do with all this.
“In some cases, victims share personal photographs and end up getting blackmailed because of this gang.”
Shaikha Noora urged anyone targeted by fake social media accounts to contact the police immediately.
The GDN has previously reported that such victims are often too ashamed to contact police after they have been duped.
“Victims who fall for these dubious schemes or promises are scared to report such cases to the police, but I strongly urge them to press charges,” said Shaikha Noora.
“I work for several charity campaigns, including with Unicef, and would never ask for money on social media – unless it was through official channels and communications.”
She clarified that her legitimate social media accounts were @sh.n.alkhalifa on Instagram and @shnoora.khalifa on Facebook.
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