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Survey: Four in 10 UAE consumers experienced online fraud attempts

Findings from a survey by Visa, Dubai Police and DED suggest digital payments adoption will continue to grow in-store and online post-pandemic and need for consumers to be vigilant on online security is more important than ever

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While almost four in 10 UAE consumers have experienced online fraud attempts in the past year, trust and usage of digital payments both in-store and online see no signs of ceasing as consumers still prefer them over cash, citing improved technology, and security measures as reasons why they still feel more secure with these methods of payment. These findings were revealed in the 2021 Stay Secure survey launched by Visa, Dubai Police, and Dubai Economy (DED).

According to the study, the use of cash in the UAE continues to decline. While eCommerce and contactless payments have increased in popularity and use since the start of the pandemic, paying by Cash on Delivery (COD) has declined significantly (75%), while the use of digital payments (contactless cards + mobile wallets) for payment online or on delivery has almost doubled (by an average of 98%). Consumer feedback reinforces the belief that there is no reversal of this trend, with 40% of consumers saying they are less likely to use COD and 45% are more likely to use contactless payment methods in the future.

Nearly two-thirds of consumers (63%) have high level of confidence in digital payments (contactless cards and mobile wallets) for shopping in-store and payment on delivery, an increase since the start of the pandemic. Top reasons consumers gave for their trust in contactless include convenience (60%), speed (59%), control (the card or mobile never leaves consumer’s hand during transaction) (46%), avoiding human touch (56%) and innovative way to pay (48%).

Biometrically-verified payments – such as mobile wallets – also scored high with consumers with more than a third (67%) saying it is secure, and 60% saying it gives them complete control as it never leaves their hand in a transaction and eliminates the hassle of having to remember passwords.

Knowledge of the technology that protects digital payments is a driver of consumer trust. Among consumers who trust digital payments, a majority (52%) said having knowledge of underlying security technologies that protect digital payments, such as tokenization, helps build their confidence in cashless options. Those who do not have adequate levels of knowledge of the technology, still have lagging doubts about the safety of digital payments. For example, 47% fear misuse of lost or stolen contactless cards mostly due to a lack of understanding of how the technology work (27%). These findings reinforce the importance of continual education on safe digital payment practices among consumers to maintain their trust.

The survey also sheds light on consumers’ experiences with fraud, with 39% of UAE consumers surveyed admitting they have experienced an online fraud attempt. Around a quarter of consumers (27%) have experienced phishing, while just under a fifth have experienced credit card fraud (19%) and receiving counterfeit goods (17%). In the event of fraud, informing the bank (67%) or customer service (58%) and changing their password/PIN (72%) are the most important actions consumers are likely to take. As a testament to the trust consumers have in local law enforcement, half of UAE consumers said they would contact the authorities in the event of fraud.

Brigadier Jamal Salem Al Jalaf, Director of Criminal Investigation Department in Dubai Police, said, “As people spend more and more time online – including many for the first time, fraudsters are using this as an opportunity to exploit consumers’ fears and lack of knowledge. We strongly believe that government authorities, the private sector and local communities all have an important role to play in raising awareness among UAE residents. Dubai Police is delighted to once again partner with Visa and Dubai Economy on the Stay Secure initiative, which will help strengthen our efforts to reduce online fraud and cybercrime in the UAE and ensure a safe and secure digital economy for everyone.”

Ahmad Al Zaabi, Director of Consumer Protection in Dubai Economy, said, ” The partnership with Visa enables us to track consumer behaviour and we are delighted to see confidence in digital payments rising steadily, which in turn will accelerate the ongoing digital transformation in Dubai.”

Neil Fernandes, Visa’s Head of Risk for Middle East and North Africa, said, “Our ongoing Stay Secure campaign is our effort in bringing together all participants in the payments ecosystem to work together to advance efforts to educate consumers on how to stay vigilant, identify potential fraud, and what actions they should take if they are affected.”

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