It’s human nature to want to help those in trouble. And it’s a feeling that’s particularly magnified living here in Dubai: there’s a sense, perhaps, that we’re all in this together; that we’re all far from home; that one day it might be us needing the help of strangers.

But don’t jump in without thinking twice. Like any big city, Dubai is not without its population of tricksters and con-artists. Certain scams are so common they’ve almost become part of Dubai’s urban mythology: the ‘booze bandits’ who catch you on your way back from a booze run to the northern emirates; the Italian guy who offers you a bargain of a designer suit that’s ‘left over from a trade fair’; the humble Omani family that have run out of petrol and needs AED 100 to get home; and the man with the weeping wound who can’t afford to pay for his AED 700 prescription, for example.

It’s also worth knowing that the government takes scams very seriously. Official information portal has a page on how to avoid getting conned in the UAE, [1] and numbers for where you should report dodgy attempts to part you from your cash.

Meanwhile, be on your guard if you ever come face-to-face with the following:

The Forex investor

This guy tells you you can double your money by doing a nifty little foreign exchange deal. He talks the talk and walks the walk – he probably drives the fancy car, too – but he’s one of the worst. Unless you know exactly what you’re dealing with, walk away. If it looks too good to be true, guess what? It is too good to be true.

The helpful stranger

This chap watches you withdraw cash from a bank or an ATM, then either lets down your tyre or tells you something’s wrong with your car and makes off with your cash as you squat down to check.

The honest taxi driver

He’ll pick you up outside a restaurant or bar after you’ve had a few drinks, then will threaten to take you to the police for being ‘drunk in public’ unless you cross his palm with crumpled notes.

The pedestrian accident

Imagine this: you’re driving slowly through a congested area such as JBR, parts of Deira or Bur Dubai when a pedestrian steps out in front of you. He clutches his leg and falls to the floor, injured, while ‘witnesses’ who saw you hit him offer to call the police – but the accident victim suggests there’s no need – if you pay him a few thousand Dirhams to cover his, cough, ‘medical expenses’.

The cheque over-payer

This charming chap overpays you for goods or services using a (forged) cheque for a much higher value. Offering a convincing backstory as to why the cheque is for so much more, he suggests you pay him back most of the difference in cash and, yanni, keep a little extra for your trouble. By the time the bank rejects his cheque, both he and your dosh are long gone.

The dodgy Dubizzle buyer

At surface value, he’s the dream buyer: he wants everything you’re selling, and he’ll arrange transport himself. Only he’s in Ukraine, and will pay via PayPal if you’ll only be so kind as to send your details… watch out, too, for the suspiciously cheap car or electronic goods: sellers know you’ll be desperate to secure the deal and hence be more likely to do something stupid like wire them your bank account details. Dubizzle recommends that you only strike deals face-to-face and in cash, and that you report any scams directly to them.

The dodgy car buyer

‘I want your car, but I’m travelling on Friday. I’ll give you a cash deposit now and the rest in a cheque if we can transfer ownership today…otherwise I don’t know how long it might be…’

Look, I know you want to trust him and I know you desperately need to sell your car but, trust me, it’ll end in tears. Rule of thumb: never, ever complete the transfer of ownership until you have the money in your account.

The fake landlord

This conman poses as a landlord or real estate agent to show victims around properties. He has the keys; he hands over a rental contract, a copy of the ownership certificate and relevant passport copies, takes a year’s rent and disappears, leaving you to face eviction by the real owner. Joyful, eh?

British mum Annabel Kantaria has lived in Dubai for a very long time and is the author of best-selling domestic thrillers Coming Home and The Disappearance. The One That Got Away is out in May 2017.
Follow her on Twitter @BellaKay; on Instagram: @dubaipix  and on Facebook

[1] Coming Home
[2] Disappearance
[3] The One That Got Away