A lot of "unwise" (to be charitable) decisions by rental car users come across our news feed and get featured in our Felony Friday series. In this installment, we have a pair of individuals who decided to commit identity theft and eventually rented a car. The result was a financial loss to the rental car company of approximately $565. Sounds like a probation and negligible fine in the United States but the criminals here attempted the identity theft in Dubai, United Arab Emirates where crime and punishment (mainly punishment) are no joke. We've previously written about an individual facing a jail term for flipping off another driver while driving a rental car and there's a sizable list of crimes that can result in the death penalty. The UAE is probably the absolute worst place for our thieves to undertake their rental car scheme, especially as the rental car companies there keep copies of records.
Punishments for transgressions in Dubai can be severe.
The story actually starts a year before the thefts. The victim met a man who said he worked for a bank and could help him with a loan. In the victim's words:
"The suspect requested copies of my passport, Emirates ID, driving licence, labour card and employment contract and salary certificate, to complete the loan application procedure. I submitted him those documents."
Which brings us to life lesson number one. If one wants a loan, go to the bank.
Real loan originators have desks at the local bank branch, so don't give your identifying information to a con artist posing as a banker. Yet we already know how the story progresses from here -- someone using the victim's identity to rent and subsequently ditch multiple rental cars. When the identity theft victim gets threatened with criminal charges, he only gets off because he proves with documents that he was out of the country and the records from the rental transaction show that a different face is shown on the rental documents.
Life lessons number two and three. If you live in Dubai, keep records of your travels. And if you rent a car in Dubai, understand that your information will be retained and used by the police if necessary, just like in the case of the middle finger salute.
- Helpful point of comparison: Flipping off a cop is also unwise but does not even constitute probable cause in the United States.
At this point, the police have identified the "former bank employee" the victim had only met once. The Dubai police found the forger -- after all, foreign workers all have to register -- and arrested both he and his accomplice on just one of the rental car transactions. Each of the criminals was a foreign national and dealing with a local criminal justice system where even a bad social media post against the government or employer, accidentally touching someone, or becoming pregnant outside of wedlock can result in jail time. The two thieves -- stealing less than $600 total -- each received sentences of six months in jail and deportation orders for that single theft case. The rental car company got their vehicle back, the pair serve a cumulative year (six months per), and each gets permanently expelled from the country; fortunately, the original victim didn't end up taking the rap for the thieves.