Security experts have warned that scammers are taking advantage of the war in Ukraine to trick people into donating to fake causes.
With over $900 million raised by Ukraine and Ukrainian charities since Russia’s February 24 invasion began, fraudsters from around the world have been looking hungrily at the money flowing in.
According to National Interest: “First, there are the predictable scams: fake pages on social media pretending to be the Red Cross and other legitimate aid organizations, routine malicious spam and phishing cons, as well as the hacking and cloning of legitimate fundraising accounts on Twitter and Instagram to redirect funds to fraudsters. Then there are fake crowdfunding pages that try to profit off of legitimate deaths and attacks, direct phone calls pleading for money for Ukrainians displaced or wounded by the war, fake web pages set up claiming to be from victims of the war, and much more.”
Today’s deepfake technology makes it easier than you’d believe in producing high-quality videos or audio clips of a public figure saying or doing something that never happened in real life.
According to a BBC report, Miguel Hibert, a Mexican pediatrician, had his identity digitally hijacked and used by scammers to solicit donations by linking to fake medical donation pages calling him “Maxim Aranov.” These messages had solicited funds by claiming that “Aranov’s” children’s clinic in Zharkiv, Ukraine, had been bombed and desperately needed funds to help children harmed by the attack.
Fake charity websites are popping up, too, say MSN: “Researchers at ESET, a Slovakia-based antivirus company, said they’d discovered a handful of sites using the colors of Ukraine’s flag and dramatic images of soldiers and explosions. The websites solicit “aid,” ESET said, but they don’t provide specifics as to how the money will be used.
Since the start of the war in Ukraine, Facebook says it has removed “tens of thousands of accounts, Pages and Groups” around the world for spreading misleading content about the conflict to build audiences and bring in cash.
“Experts say that decentralization and anonymity have enabled crypto assets to be an excellent means of wartime fundraising. But this anonymity has had its drawbacks too” notes Aakanksha Chaturvedi.
Security experts have emphasized the importance of potential donors verifying the legitimacy of websites — for instance, by checking for spelling and grammar mistakes in emails — before giving any money, said Check Point Research.