Scammers watch current events too; here’s why

The Better Business Bureau warns that scammers use events like the war in Ukraine to get money.
Published: Apr. 14, 2022 at 3:13 PM PDT
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RENO, Nev. (KOLO) - Pictures from Ukraine come to us every day. We know there are fatalities and refugees. And some of us may feel compelled to help in any way we can.

Recently an email started circulating where the sender identifies herself as Debbie Levin, and says her late husband Max, a photojournalist, was killed by Russian occupiers in Ukraine. The letter goes on to say the couple has no children. But they do have a joint asset worth 6.5 million dollars. Debbie goes on to say she’s in a polish hospital with health issues. Before her imminent death, she says she wants to donate all the money to an orphanage or charity organization.

“If you do a quick search, you find out that this was a renowned photojournalist who was reportedly killed by Russians outside of Kyiv,” says Timothy Johnston with the Better Business Bureau. “So, from that perspective, if you did just a little bit of digging might say oh this is real. But if you go a little bit deeper you find the stories don’t match,” he says.

Debbie asks the recipient to contact her so that she can release the money to them.

Johnston says this letter is nothing new, the BBB calls them “Foreign Money Exchanges.”

“So, as we take a look at statistics from 2021 on our risk report, this scam type, falling for it, is low,” says Johnston. “But if you do fall for it, it does have the highest monetary loss of $3,700,” he says.

While the letter mimics the “Nigerian Prince Scam,” Johnston says it also follows another practice by scammers--monopolizing on world events or local disasters.

“So often what we see is scammers pay attention to current events,” he says. “And they often look to take advantage of things that are taking place,” says Johnston.

Johnston says don’t be surprised if you see an increase in questionable donations for Ukraine as this year goes on. Those requests may change if there’s a local major fire or a police officer is killed.

Do your research he says on the agencies asking for funds. And remember the Better Business Bureau has not only a list of recent scams but also a list of reputable charity organizations.

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