Voice of the Industry

How donation fraudsters are exploiting payment loopholes to scam amid the ongoing Ukraine crisis

Tuesday 12 April 2022 08:01 CET | Editor: Irina Ionescu | Voice of the industry

James Greening, Chief Editor at ScamAdviser.com, comments on the various ways fraudsters’ can take advantage of the ongoing Ukraine war and payment loopholes to gain illicit access to funds

Every time there is an event that captures the attention of people globally, scammers are the first to jump in and try to exploit the public for their own gain. As reported in ScamAdviser’s Global State of Scams 2021 Report, online scam reports increased by 90% in 2021, and this massive growth was caused mainly by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Now, in early 2022, the Russian invasion of Ukraine has become a global hot topic. People all over the world are showing solidarity with Ukraine and scores of people wish to help in any manner they can. There are several legitimate organisations working in Ukraine that are accepting donations to ensure the supply of essentials to Ukrainians.

It should come as no surprise that scammers are trying every trick they know in order to capitalise on the kindness of people who wish to extend a helping hand. Several types of donation scams were reported to us within days of Russian forces making their way into Ukraine. Scammers are quick to exploit banking and payments systems for facilitating fake donations using various ways.

Fake pleas for help

Desperate pleas for help from complete strangers is an old trope of email scams. In this latest iteration, scammers are pretending to be people stuck in Ukraine who need Bitcoin for various reasons such as feeding their family, bribing authorities, and more.

This scam is almost as old as email itself and there is absolutely no reason to believe that it is a genuine request from someone in Ukraine. The real sender is likely to be a scammer in a different continent intent on stealing money meant for donations.

This scam is not limited to email alone. Scammers are also active on social media soliciting donations from strangers by pretending to be Ukrainians in need of Bitcoin.

Fake crowdfunding campaigns

Fake crowdfunding campaigns are another favourite tactic of scammers. Scammers set up fake campaigns on crowdfunding sites under the pretense of benefiting Ukraine, but the money is used for the benefit of no one but the scammers themselves. They either misuse crowdfunding platforms for this purpose or set up fly-by-night websites for collecting donations before disappearing with the money.

Some sites we analysed were operated anonymously and only contained crypto wallet addresses. Therefore, the donations were also accepted anonymously, and there was no accountability regarding whether the donated funds were, indeed, being used for the intended purpose. These signs point to a strong likelihood that they were scams. 

NFT scams

While the above scammers are directly soliciting funds, other scammers are doing it in a roundabout way, as the Ukraine Donation Scams have infested the NFT space too. 

There are campaigns being promoted on social media claiming to donate Ethereum earned from the sales of NFTs on OpenSea to help Ukraine. Our analysis shows that these profiles were created days before the promotions began, meaning they are brand new initiatives with no background information available. There is no way to ascertain whether the funds will actually be used for the welfare of Ukrainians, which makes it highly probable that they may just be a cons.

This is just the beginning and we are sure to see a lot more creative Ukraine Donation Scams utilising different tactics to trick people into thinking they are donating for a good cause. It is important to ensure that payment systems are not being misused, so that the people who need help receive it, and the funds don’t line the pockets of scammers.


About James Greening

James Greening is a pseudonym. Due to the nature of his journalistic work uncovering cyber criminals, he prefers to not use his real name. James has been fighting scams actively since 2020. He has his own blog, FakeWebsiteBuster.com and is the Chief Editor at ScamAdviser.com. He analyses scam websites and tries to expose them. Apart from fighting scams, he loves taking care of cats.


About ScamAdviser

ScamAdviser helps over 3 million consumers every month to discover if a website is legitimate or a scam. ScamAdviser helps consumers make their online shopping decisions by rating websites with the ScamAdviser Trust Score. The algorithm of ScamAdviser utilises 40 independent data sources. From the IP address of the web server, the availability of contact details on the website, the age of the domain, ratings on review sites, and more. Our team is continuously improving ScamAdviser's Algorithm. Also, businesses can now access the data of ScamAdviser.com via API and Feed. 

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Companies: ScamAdviser
Countries: Ukraine


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