Australia bound Bhutanese woman robbed of Nu 1.95 mn after failing to delink her old SIM number from her bank account

A growing number of individuals are falling victim to scams, highlighting the alarming level of carelessness among the public. Individuals falling prey to such scams have lost more than Nu 10 million in just the third month of the year.

Most individuals leaving for abroad are seen neglecting to deactivate their local SIM cards, leading to telecom companies recycling them and unintentionally providing an opportunity for scammers to exploit innocent individuals.

One such case has come to light involving a Bhutanese individual who traveled to Australia, leaving her Bhutanese SIM card active and linked to her bank account.

Months after her departure, the telecom service provider recycled her number, which fell into the hands of an individual from a neighboring country visiting Bhutan for work. Unaware that her SIM card had been deactivated and reassigned, the individual abroad continued to transfer her hard-earned money to her Bhutanese bank account.

The new owner of the SIM card began receiving constant notifications of financial transactions from the bank account.

Seizing the opportunity, the SIM card’s new owner attempted to gain access to the bank account online, making over 600 unsuccessful attempts before successfully transferring an amount totaling 19 lakhs 50 thousand to other accounts.

Fortunately, the victim became aware of the unauthorized transactions and promptly reported the incident to the Royal Bhutan Police (RBP) through her family members in Bhutan.

Initially, the stolen funds were transferred to two separate accounts, which were further divided into two accounts each. However, RBP was able to intervene and freeze the final account, successfully retrieving the stolen money.

Bhutan Telecom (BT) shared that SIM cards not recharged within three months will expire and be recycled, with the number reassigned to new customers. To address this issue, BT has introduced a SIM retention service for individuals planning to travel or reside outside Bhutan for extended periods, up to three years.

This service allows users to reserve their SIM card for the duration of their absence by paying an annual fee of Nu 50. While the reserved number will not be recycled during this period, it will remain inactive for use.

BT said that in a bid to combat fraudulent activities, they have issued a scam alert, urging customers who receive suspicious calls or messages impersonating the company not to respond and report such incidents promptly.

Financial Institutions, such as Bhutan National Bank even took to the social media to issue a firm reminder about the increasing prevalence of scams targeting unsuspecting Bhutanese citizens. The bank emphasized the importance of vigilance and urged the public to be proactive in safeguarding themselves, and the community, at large.

Meanwhile, Bank of Bhutan also stated on its Facebook page that they would never request for any sensitive information over phone calls.

Bhutan Development Bank also issued a notice to its customers through the social media, advising them to refrain from sharing OTP numbers or personal details with anyone, claiming to be from a bank or telecom company. The bank stressed that legitimate Financial Institutions would never ask clients for such information over the phone.

Also, customers were urged to exercise caution when receiving calls from unfamiliar numbers, promptly blocking any suspicious contacts and refraining from clicking on links shared by unknown sources.

RBP urges all Bhutanese citizens traveling abroad to deactivate their SIM cards before departing the country. Failing to do so not only expose individuals to risks, but also creates opportunities for scammers to exploit the situation.

Also, RBP emphasizes the importance of safeguarding personal information and preventing potentially fraudulent activities.

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