Watch out for these 5 Ukraine scams that could be on their way here: Internet Scambusters #1,003
The military situation in Ukraine is moving quickly -- and so are crooks using the name of the country to pull off scams.
Fraudsters will twist the name of Ukraine into well-known scam disguises in the coming weeks.
In this week's issue, we'll give you the heads-up on the five scams unfolding in the coming weeks.
Let's get started…
Ukraine Conflict Scams Target Americans
The conflict in Ukraine may seem a long way from your doorstep but you can be sure, in at least one way, your security is likely to be threatened: by scammers!
Experience from past conflicts tells us what Ukraine scams are waiting to snare us, and they won't necessarily come from Eastern Europe.
Here are five tricks that will likely target Americans in the coming weeks -- even if there are serious moves toward peace.
Distressed Friends or Relatives
This long-established scam is perfectly tailored toward the situation in Ukraine right now.
Victims receive a message by phone, text or email, seemingly from someone they know, who will say they're trapped in the war zone and urgently need money to escape.
They will ask for the money to be sent by one of the wiring services because that's exactly how you might send cash in such a dire situation.
Usually, the crooks will phone, using a vague introduction like "It's me" in hopes the victim will guess the name of someone they know. Then they'll spin a story about being on a business trip or vacation in Ukraine when they got trapped.
If this happens to you, always ask the name of the caller rather than giving them clues and then check on the real location of that person via friends or relatives.
Even if you can't confirm their whereabouts, it's almost certainly a scam. If you wire money, you'll never see it again.
War Victim Charities
Scammers set up fake websites claiming to be involved in helping Ukrainian victims of the battles. This is exactly what happened during the conflict in Syria.
Social media sites like Facebook are their favorite hunting grounds.
Often, scam charities use realistic sounding names and feature dramatic photos from war zones. They may want you to wire cash or use cybercurrency to donate, both of which are untraceable after the money is sent.
Or they may ask you to pay by credit card and then use your card details for identity theft, which they'll either sell or max out.
The best way to avoid Ukraine charity scams is to contribute only to established, reputable charities like the Red Cross. Even then, you need to be sure you're dealing with the genuine organization by searching online for their website and starting from there.
Watch out too for street and shopping mall collectors with donation buckets or boxes. It's next to impossible to know if they're genuine when they stop you, unless you know the collector personally.
Perpetrators use dramatic untrue stories, "doctored" videos and emotional photos to support whatever their ulterior aim is.
They may be inspired by political motives, or just luring victims to fake websites to download malware.
It's so easy to fake news and images these days and crooks know the more sensational the story, the more likely you are to follow links or repost what you see.
Avoid clicking on links in these reports and definitely never download "video viewers" or other apps a site says you need.
And don't forward stories without checking them online, by doing a search to see if other sources are reporting the same thing. If they're not, it's likely fake.
Ukraine is one of the most common locations for so-called mail-order brides, women looking for dating and marriage partners in the US.
Not surprisingly, Ukraine is also a hotbed for online bridal scams in which the crooks create a convincing backstory and then ask victims to send money for them to fly. They usually keep their victims on the hook for as long as possible with repeated requests for more money.
It's highly likely that these scam "brides" -- who may really be anywhere in the world -- will use the explanation of an urgent need to escape the Ukrainian conflict.
This gives them two advantages -- a plausible excuse and the need to pressure victims into taking urgent action before they have time to thoroughly investigate.
Overseas bridal sites are dubious at best. You'll always be asked to pay a fee, which you'll never get back, so we advise against using them unless you're 100 percent certain they're legit. Even then, never offer to pay airfares or outrageous fees.
Legit bridal agencies charge between $2,000 and $4,000 but rip-offs, even by genuine agencies, can go as high as $30,000.
Nigerian Scams in Ukraine
Really? Yes, this scam, which began in and still operates from Nigeria and other African countries, involves email requests, often from a fake government official or businessperson.
Messages say that the purported sender is a high-ranking person with access to millions of dollars (or hryvnia, the Ukrainian currency) that they'll split with you if you help them smuggle it out of the country.
A military conflict in a region where corruption is not unusual provides the ideal scenario for spinning this kind of spoof story.
Victims are asked to pay for all types of services, supposed "bribes," and flight tickets to get their hands on the money which, of course, never arrives.
Remarkably, this scam is still going despite widespread publicity. The simple rule (apart from not breaking the law!) is never to pay to receive money.
Depending on the direction this conflict takes, Ukrainian versions of other well-known scams will likely emerge in the coming weeks. The best policy is that when you see or hear the word "Ukraine," beware and think carefully before acting.
That's it for today -- we hope you enjoy your week!