When COVID-19 had already spread around the world in early 2020, an array of online fraud attempts emerged that took advantage of the uncertainty of the moment and the vulnerability of online users to steal their money and data.
Today, two years later, these cyberscams have become more sophisticated and have a new context: the armed conflict between Russia and Ukraine. Twitter, Telegram, Facebook, Instagram, TikTok and even forums like Reddit or fake websites are the most commonly used channels to carry out this type of scam.
Panda Security, a company specialising in cybersecurity, has detected five types of cyberscam using the humanitarian crisis in Ukraine as bait.
The grandfather scam
To carry out this scam, cybercriminals pretend they are someone who needs help to get his grandson out of Ukraine following the Russian invasion. In the message that they send online, the alleged grandfather tells his victims that he has lost his passport and cannot withdraw money from the bank, so he urgently needs a transfer through mobile apps.
Before sending the messages, cybercriminals do a detailed study on social networks to find people who may have relatives or friends in the war zone. This way, photos that can be found online are downloaded and they create montages to make it look like the family member or friend is actually trapped at the airport, or in a refugee area.
This type of scam usually comes through people who receive a message and share it through social networks or instant messaging platforms.
Fake websites to steal money
One of the ways in which citizens often support humanitarian causes is through donations to NGOs, and cybercriminals are well aware of this.
For this reason, they use fundraising platforms like GoFundMe and create fake websites by making themselves look like a charitable organisation to obtain large sums of money in a very short period.
The rich person who needs to move his money
In this scam, an allegedly rich person gets in touch with the victim to ask for help in moving a large sum of money from Ukraine to a foreign country in order to have their funds when they manage to leave the war zone.
As a result, the victim will have to pay the costs of the transfer. In return, the scammer promises to give them more money than they spend on the transaction.
This scam is known as Nigerian letter fraud, and cybercriminals have adapted it to the current era to make it more effective.
Gathering signatures to stop the war
Whenever it is necessary to advocate for a certain cause, numerous petition platforms have emerged. Although most of them are legal, some are created by cybercriminals who steal data from victims such as national ID (DNI) or postal address.
Deepfake as a weapon for spreading false information
The Russia-Ukraine conflict is a hybrid war that is also being waged online. Alongside the avalanche of fake news that floods the networks in these first weeks of the attack, deepfakes may be used as a weapon to spread propaganda or false information.
When we talk about deepfake, we are referring to a technique that manipulates images or videos in such a way that they look real. They could "produce" Ukraine's surrender and turn it into viral without it having actually occurred.
Don't fall for it!
If you have received an SMS, a message via social networks or instant messaging apps or an email requesting money to help with the emergency in Ukraine, don't act immediately, because it could be a scam.
- Analyse the message carefully and try to work out if it is a scam. Look at who is sending it. Look at the email address or phone number. Also check whether the links it contains are legitimate and see who it is sent to. Remember that if it arrives by email, SMS or instant messaging, it may be phishing or smishing.
- Always check the sender's identity. If it is a specific organisation, contact it via the official telephone numbers to confirm if it is a legitimate message. Never use the phone numbers included in the suspicious message. You can also search for the name, contact details or message content online if you find references to possible scams, or mention it to someone you know to see what they think.
- Never send money in cash or by transfer if you have any doubts about the recipient. When the cybercriminal gets the money, they disappear.
If you detect suspicious transactions in your account or you have provided your details in what you think is a fraud campaign, contact your branch manager immediately or call the customer service helpline 24 hours a day at 93 887 25 25/900 40 40 90 or +34 938 87 25 25 if you are abroad.