Have you ever handed over a signed cheque to an agent representing an insurance firm or a credit card company? Did you know this cheque can be misused in ways you could never imagine? Believe it or not, several residents of the UAE have learned this lesson the hard way. Entrusting people with a written cheque is not always the wisest of decisions. Yes, we are talking about victims of the erasable ink fraud!

If you have read the news lately, the term “magic pen” or “erasable ink” must have caught your attention. A few years ago, several people in the country were tricked by scammers into signing cheques with a special kind of pen. This pen used an ink that disappears within a couple of hours of use through techniques such as heat exposure.

Unfortunately, recent reports suggest that these scammers are back in action.

How are scammers duping unsuspecting customers?

Imagine owing someone money and letting them fill in the details while you sign the cheque. If they are using one of these magic pens, the text would disappear in an hour or two and the person will walk away with your sign on a blank cheque!

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Fraudsters usually target gullible customers by posing as officials of credit card firms, insurance representatives, bill collectors or real estate agents. They ask customers them to issue a cheque under a legitimate-sounding pretext. When the customer takes out the cheque book, the fraudsters offer customers their own “magic pen” to fill in the details. Upon securing the cheque, they erase the details and alter the names, amount, date and other details to their advantage. 

In a recent case reported to the police, a customer was offered a zero-interest rate credit card and had to issue a cheque as a bank guarantee. To his shock, he found that a much higher amount than what he had written on the cheque was withdrawn from his bank account. The fraudster had erased all the original details and encashed a huge sum from the customer’s bank account.

[Related: Phishing, Vishing, Smishing – The Anatomy of A Scam]

How to avoid falling victim to the scam

RAKBANK is among several banks that have issued a warning to their customers regarding the invisible ink scam. Despite banks stepping in, it is ultimately your responsibility to be aware and avoid falling prey to such frauds.

Here’s how you can avoid getting duped by these scammers…

  • Never sign a cheque in which the amount and other key details are filled in by someone else. Also, never use a pen offered by the representative/agent. It’s always safe to use your own pen to fill the details. 
  • Always ask the individual you’re dealing with to identify themselves and show their ID proof. Follow this protocol irrespective of which company they say they’re from.
  • If you have any doubt or suspicion, do not hesitate to call the bank or firm the agent claims to be representing. This is a smart way to check if he or she indeed works for there.
  • Do not let agents sweet-talk you into signing a cheque or giving a bank guarantee.
  • Also, try minimizing the use of cheques unless absolutely essential.

If you exercise caution and follow these tips, you can easily avoid becoming the next victim of the ‘Magic pen’ fraud.

[Related: How to Avoid Falling Victim to Identity Theft]

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