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Beware of fraudsters who thrive on crises

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By Sandra Nebritova

The latest events with the war in Ukraine have shaken the world and had a massive impact on a number of aspects of life, social as well as business.

However, any tragic event that has a major impact, also attracts criminals to use the crisis to their advantage.

These could include:

Fraud

With such a large amount of people willing to help the victims of the war crisis, it is acceptable that donations will be collected in order to provide financial aid.

However, not all of the funds will reach those who need it most. Fraudsters will set up fake donation accounts, share them through social media urging people to help and donate as much as they can. They will use phrases and pictures that will touch people’s emotions and knock them off their guard.

While in such an emotional state, people tend to pay less attention to details, for example, to check the source. Very often, these fraudsters are in blatant violation of anti money laundering regulations and make extra effort to evade authorities.

Funds will be collected and then go directly into the fraudster’s pocket. In order to avoid this, always check whether the organisation you are donating to, actually exists and is properly registered. Check for any misspellings too, as sometimes fraudsters will choose a name that will resemble a well-known charity organisation.

Human Trafficking

As people flee their own country and cross borders to neighboring territories in large numbers, this creates opportunities for human traffickers. With the majority of the migrants and refugees being women and children, it is even more attractive to criminals, as they are more vulnerable and distressed.

Warnings have already been issued, that various individuals have approached women, offering them a ride and a place to sleep. However, once additional questions are asked, those individuals become aggressive.

While there are people who are genuinely trying to help, there are also those who see this as an opportunity to kidnap women and children.

Additionally, there are also cases when individuals approach a group of migrants and offer to take them to countries that currently either do not accept migrants or require specific visas or permits to be allowed to enter. Of course, all this for a hefty price.

In most cases, such arrangements do not end well. People who were forced to leave their country should stay alert and address their needs to the volunteers and government officials.

Front people and front companies

As more and more sanctions are being issued, there will be more and more criminals willing to provide their services in order to bypass them. This includes criminals posing as owners of businesses, while actually they represent an entity that is under sanctions.

They will disguise their relation and open a variety of bank accounts in different countries, including those which have not issued any sanctions against Russian companies or individuals.

Financial institutions should be extra careful now and perform a very thorough due diligence on their current and new customers to ensure that they actually know who their customer is and that they are not breaching their sanctions’ compliance programme.

It is extremely disappointing that such tragic events can be used to someone’s benefit, but this is the reality we are living in and it is better to be well-informed and prepared for any-case scenario.

 

Sandra Nebritova is a certified AML specialist

[email protected]