Scammers are using the Russian invasion of Ukraine to target people | #datingscams | #russianliovescams | #lovescams

Cyber security experts are warning anyone donating to Ukrainian causes to be on their guard against fraud. Beware text messages, emails, phone calls, and banner ads seeking support for victims. Instead, donate to established charities.

Goal, Concern, Unicef and the Irish Red Cross are just four of the organisations accepting donations for those affected by the conflict. In addition, Médecins Sans Frontières, also known as Doctors Without Borders, is setting up emergency response activities in Ukraine.

Scams are like viruses, constantly mutating in response to new developments, always looking for new ways to divert money into the pockets of criminals.

Alongside a rising incidence of Ukraine-themed scams, criminals continue to target banking customers.

Last month, many AIB customers got a ‘phishing’ text, purporting to be from AIB, warning them that their account had been compromised. In order to address the issue, you had to click on a link which then brought you to what looked like the AIB login page. Anyone who put in their details would quickly find that their account had now actually been compromised.

Last week, I got a text from ‘BOI’ stating: “Attempts have been made on your account at 20:31. Please review this (next came a link). Failure to review may lead to suspension of services”. And back in December, I got one from the same number which said that my account had been compromised.

It looked like the real deal — most of these scams do — but always remember: your bank won’t send you links, ever, so never click on them. is a great resource. It is a fraud awareness initiative developed by the Banking and Payments Federation, showcasing the different types of scams and frauds that are currently making the rounds.

Romance fraud continues to be a big problem. The Fraudsmart site offers Sarah’s story as typical of those who are targeted.

She met the scammer on Facebook. They chatted for a number of months, and a relationship developed. He was based in the Middle East, but said that he would move to Ireland so that they could be together properly.

He gave his flight details, times of arrival, connections, and so on to Sarah, and said that he had already sent his belongings. They would be arriving to Ireland shortly. Later that day Sarah got a call from ‘Customs’ in Ireland, who told her that the belongings had arrived, but that the fees on them had been underpaid. These charges would need to be paid immediately or else the items would be returned. ‘Customs’ said that they had tried contacting her partner, but he wasn’t answering.

This call came as he was supposedly in the air on the way to Ireland, so there was a plausible reason why he couldn’t be contacted. Sarah was told that if she wished to pay, she would have to do it via transfer, and was given the bank details to do so. She paid almost €4,000.

The next day, when her partner’s connecting flight was due, Sarah happened to tell a family member about the stress of getting the payment to ‘Customs’. They recognised immediately that something fishy was going on and told her to contact the bank and the gardaí.

When the man never showed, Sarah realised that she had fallen victim to a fraudster.

The bank attempted to recall the payment, but the money had already been moved. It would emerge too that several smaller payments had been made over the months of the relationship, for things like iTunes and Amazon gift cards.

This kind of fraud is as devastating as it is insidious.

Fraudsmart advises anyone to be careful about what you share on social media and online dating websites. Protect your identity. Don’t reveal your full name or home address. Always use a reputable dating site and use their messaging service. Don’t move to social media or texting too quickly.

Be wary of anyone asking lots of questions about you but not revealing much about themselves.

Never send money or give your bank details to somebody you have never met, no matter how much you believe them, and don’t buy flights or pay customs fees for them to visit you.

Remember that anyone can pretend to be anyone they want to be online. If they send you a picture, Google the image to see if it comes up on other sites or profiles.

Never provide copies of your personal documents such as passports or driving licenses, and if you think you may have fallen victim, contact your bank immediately. The quicker you act, the better chance of recouping any lost funds.

Remember too that there’s no shame in getting caught by a scam. Scammers rely on victims’ reluctance to talk about it to protect them.

With the housing crisis showing no signs of abating, beware of accommodation fraud. When you’re desperate to find a place to live, you’ll take way more risks than you would if it were a buyers’ market.

The Competition and Consumer Protection Commission says that there are a number of different methods that can be used to scam you. Frequently, the scammer uses the photos and details from a genuine rental property and creates a listing with their own email and phone number. They will have a reason for not being able to meet you to show the property. They’ll say they have work, or that they live out of the country. They will ask you to pay the deposit and first month’s rent upfront and may send you additional photos and even a set of fake keys.

In another version, the scammer rents a house then advertises it as available to rent. They show potential tenants around while they live there. They will again ask for funds upfront and may provide you with a set of keys, but when you arrive, the keys won’t work and the scammer has disappeared.

It’s not unusual for the scammer to use the same property to fool a number of people in this way. As well as scamming you out of your money, they may ask for a copy of your ID or proof of address as part of the application process. These can then be used to carry out further identity fraud.

Remember — if it looks too good to be true, it is.

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