As Russia continues its invasion of Ukraine, aid organizations and individuals have mobilized and solicited donations to help Ukrainians.
However, the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre (CAFC) says it is aware of multiple social media and email fundraiser scams falsely claiming to provide support for those fleeing the war.
The CAFC told CTVNews.ca in an emailed statement on Wednesday it has received 17 reports of scams linked to Ukrainian aid efforts where the victims were reached by social media or by email between Jan. 1 and March 22, 2022.
One of the main forms of fraud reported to the CAFC has been donation scams through social media. This includes instances of individuals and groups on Facebook asking users to directly send them money that they will then forward to a friend or charity in Ukraine, as well as similar campaigns on Instagram that ask Canadians to send donations via etransfer.
To avoid charity scams, the CAFC says Canadians should ask for information in writing before making a donation. They can also check if the charity is registered with the Canada Revenue Agency by calling 800-267-2384 to ensure it is legitimate.
The agency also warns Canadians not to click on any links in unsolicited text messages or emails seeking donations to support Ukraine.
Another type of fraud the CAFC is seeing in relation to the crisis in Ukraine are fake websites and false online advertisements offering “cheap” immigration services, or even some that “guarantee” high paying jobs to refugees once they arrive in Canada.
The CAFC is warning that these websites often look very similar to official government sites.
“Beware if they are asking you to pay for application access fees or deposits before the application is even started,” the CAFC said.
While romance schemes remain one of the top frauds affecting Canadians in the past year, the CAFC said it has also received such reports related to Ukraine, including one of a man posing as a Canadian intelligence officer serving in Ukraine, who engaged in an online relationship with a women and asked her for money to assist in his military efforts.
When it comes to romance scams, the CAFC says Canadians should be wary of profiles on social media or dating apps that may seem fake, as well as any email correspondence that may appear “suspicious.”
“Scammers will try to use any means necessary to convince you that their requests are legitimate. The majority of fraud is not committed by amateurs and they will use technology to their advantage,” the CAFC said.
To protect themselves from a possible scam, the CAFC suggests Canadians:
Ask questions and talk to family members or friends about the situation
Request the donation information in writing
Watch out for urgent pleas that play on emotions or involve high-pressure sales tactics
Always verify that the organization they’re dealing with is legitimate
Don’t give out personal information to someone they only have an online relationship with
Beware of unsolicited calls or emails (e.g. phishing) that ask to confirm or update their personal or financial information
While the CAFC does not conduct investigations, the agency does provide assistance to law enforcement agencies by identifying fraud connections, and asks Canadians to report fraud if they believe they may be a victim.
In 2021, the CAFC says it received 104,295 fraud reports involving over $379 million in reported losses.