May 19, 2022
It was around 6.30 in the morning. I was in deep slumber when the ring of my phone woke me up suddenly.
“Why are you calling my daughter” yelled a Bahraini voice over the other end of the phone. I was confused and shocked for a moment as I was trying to comprehend what he was trying to tell me early in the morning.
“What do you mean? I haven’t called anybody like that.” I replied.
“You have called using WhatsApp. I will go to police” asserted the other person hanging up the phone.
I started scanning in detail the call history of my phone but could not track the same phone number to which the all had supposedly gone. I repeated the process once again but in vain.
Then I had to take my son to the ophthalmologist. While my son was inside the clinic, I called up the complainant. This time I wanted to know more details such as when he received the call, whether it was only from the WhatsApp app or the regular phone etc. He replied in an angry tone that he received calls many times on different days from the WhatsApp app.
After my child’s appointment with the doctor, I rushed to the area police station as per the instructions of the cybercrime center. When I reached the police station, there was a long queue. I explained my situation and clarified as to how long it would take. They told me that there is a queue and it is difficult to tell exactly. I decided to sort out the matter first as it would land me in trouble and decided to report late or take leave from the work if required.
I narrated the above story to the police. He referred me to the other police and asked me to wait. When the other police man called me I narrated the story one again. He said ‘may be your son would have called’.
‘My son is too small to make a call and even if he did there should be outgoing call record.” I insisted. Then he took my phone and thoroughly checked the call record but could not find any evidence.
Then he called up the number of the complainant and asked for the details. He explained his story and sent a screenshot indicating an outgoing call from my WhatsApp number. I was really perturbed. All scary thoughts ran in my mind- what if I am framed in the case and put behind bars for a crime that I have not committed. How would I defend myself on a foreign land when I have a family and small children to take care of?
Then the police took my phone and checked for the outgoing calls on specific date, but could find nothing.
Then I was referred to another police officer. Once again I explained my story and pleaded that I was innocent. He asked me if the other person abused me over the phone. I replied in the negative.
“Then why did you come here to complain?’
The biggest hurdle I faced during this interrogation was language. I could not speak in Arabic and he was not able to understand English very well.
Then I told him, I had to come and complain because what if he had complained against me that I was making WhatsApp calls to his daughter when nothing of the sort had happened. Also I wanted the police to probe as to who had hacked my account.
‘‘Oh, that’s the matter!’ he smiled and gave me a card authenticating my innocence and was told to call them in case the complainant harassed me in the future.
They also put me in touch with the complainant over the phone. This time he spoke calmly as I explained my situation and empathized with me.
By then, I had spent half a day at the police station, nevertheless, it was a huge sense of relief!
Once I reached my office, I was haunted with the question - how could a WhatsApp call go from my phone without the call record? I immediately consulted my teacher colleague from the dept. of IT. He asked me to verify with the SIM card providers which I did. They told me SIM has nothing to do with WhatsApp account. Then my colleague advised me to enable two step verification which would prompt for a password for your WhatsApp account periodically. I instantly followed his advice.
The incident taught me a valuable lesson. If we are unaware or ignore cyber security features, there are high chances that we not only lose our hard earned money but also land in jail for crimes that we have not committed!