Disgraceful fraudsters using Ukraine crisis to scam Britons – three tricks to look out for

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In times of crisis and uncertainty, it is a sad fact that scams and fraud increase as scammers prey on confusion and fear.

Scammers often use political and world events to take advantage of people and their good nature, and the current tragedy in Ukraine will be no different.

Here we highlight some of the Ukraine scams to look out for and show you how to protect your money.

The Ukraine-Russia conflict is the fastest-growing refugee crisis since WWII with millions of people being displaced.

And yet, believe it or not, scammers are seeking to prey on people trying to offer support to the refugees during the crisis.

The most common types of scams include phone calls, emails, banner ads and text messages that ask for donations and seem entirely legitimate.

Ukraine scams to watch out for

Think before you donate!

Probably the most prevalent scam to look out for is the ‘Donation Scam’, where scammers attempt to lure you in with fake and elaborate stories alongside requests for money.

These often make emotional but fake appeals for solidarity with the people of Ukraine or urging the public to help fund the country’s defence efforts.

Donation requests from charities you don’t recognize, particularly those that claim you are a past contributing member, should raise red flags.

If you don’t remember supporting the charity in the past, it’s likely a fraudulent email.

If you have donated in the past, always, go directly to the charity’s website and donate there, rather than rely on links from targeted emails.

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Scammers are using this crisis to set up spoof websites that look like those of official registered charities and fundraising sites like GoFundMe. Be extra-vigilant about donating money to GoFundMe pages.

Remember, it’s important not to get caught up in the urgency of a situation, and still use your common sense and conduct due diligence to ensure you’re donating to a legitimate organization.

The real tip is the URL, which will often show you it’s a fake approach.

Our advice is to stick to who you know – anyone who is unsure about a fundraising page, or the charitable efforts of an individual, should ONLY consider donating to organisations already providing support in Ukraine like the British Red Cross, the Disasters Emergency Committee (DEC) appeal, or another registered charity.

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First-time donors often make the mistake of donating with debit cards, which are directly linked to their bank accounts and are therefore considered a more vulnerable payment method.

Our advice is that the safest way to make a charitable donation is by credit card which offers additional layers of protection.

Never donate in the form of gift cards or wire transfers.

Are your friends stuck in Ukraine needing your help? I think NOT!

Then there is the appeal for money from someone who is stuck in a war-torn country.

Be particularly cautious if you receive a request from someone (even if it’s a friend or family member) claiming to be stuck in Ukraine or who says they need help with repatriation or travel costs.

“Friends and family stuck scams” with tales of lost passports and urgent financial assistance to buy plane tickets are becoming all too common.

Also, don’t be fooled by the photography of them in Ukraine, these days it’s all too easy to fake images so always check before you help. People should always fact-check for false information, and not take videos and social media posts at face value.

Also, talking of family, be wary of anyone requesting financial assistance for the burial of a loved one, or from people claiming to be “defending freedom”.

Watch helping anyone move money out of Ukraine!

Financial and banking scams are also seeing people being asked to assist in “moving money out of Ukraine” – but beware this could result in you being charged or even becoming implicated in money-laundering activities.

This is similar to the old Nigerian Prince scam where someone with a lot of money needs to move that money to leave Ukraine – but they can’t do it without your help. Of course, you’ll need to pay transfer fees.

Our advice is if you receive such a message, report it as spam and delete it immediately.

You can report a financial scam to the FCA.

To avoid scams you can clean you digital footprint up with free tool right.ly.

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