Charity warns people to beware of scammers trying to exploit Ukraine crisis

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A charity is warning people to beware of scammers trying to exploit the humanitarian crisis in Ukraine by taking advantage of people who want to help.

Advice Direct Scotland said it is “highly likely” scammers will try to take advantage of the situation in the war-torn country to trick people out of money they thought they were using to help.

It highlighted a range of ways fraudsters might seek to target those trying to offer support, including donation scams, where attempts are made to lure people in with fake elaborate stories alongside requests for money.

The charity also warned people to be wary of anyone requesting financial assistance for the burial of a loved one, or from people claiming to be “defending freedom”, and said scammers may also set up “spoof” websites that look like those of official registered charities and fundraising sites like GoFundMe.

Colin Mathieson, Advice Direct Scotland spokesman, said: “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.

“We saw various scams perpetrated against Scottish consumers throughout the Covid pandemic through channels like social media, email, text messages, phone calls and even on the doorstep.

“And with the situation escalating in Ukraine, along with increased news coverage on the evacuation and humanitarian efforts, it is highly likely scammers will take advantage of this situation too.

“This may include unsolicited contact requesting monetary donations, and/or personal and banking information, which seeks to play on the emotions of people that want to help.

“We would advise people who want to help to consider donating to organisations that are already providing support in Ukraine, such as the DEC appeal, the British Red Cross or another registered charity.

“It is important to remain vigilant and report scams and suspicious activity to the correct authorities.”

The charity said that financial and banking scams could see people being asked to assist in “moving money out of” Ukraine but could result in them being charged or even becoming implicated in money-laundering activities.

It warned that investment scams are also a potential risk, as fraudsters may claim to offer opportunities that have only become available due to the current situation.

Advice Direct Scotland, which runs the consumer advice service, said people should avoid clicking on links in emails or text messages, avoid pressing any buttons requested by unsolicited callers on the phone, and refrain from transferring money to people they do not know.

If someone has been scammed out of a large sum of money, they are advised to contact Police Scotland on the non-emergency number 101 or dial 999 if they feel threatened or at immediate risk.

The charity also said that anyone who has had money taken from their account, or who has provided personal financial information to a suspected scammer, should contact their bank.

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