Ukrainian charity scams are growing in number and sophistication

Photo (c) SEAN GLADWELL – Getty Images

Out of the goodness of their hearts, people around the world stand with the people of Ukraine as the country’s war against Russia drags on. Some do this by making cash donations, but it can be risky.

When people look for ways to give, the emails they receive, the social media posts they read, or the search results they find are pockmarked by scammers trying to siphon donations into their own pockets.

The scams are your typical bleeding-heart scammers dressed in the blue and yellow colors of the Ukrainian flag and adorned with official-looking logos. When ConsumerAffairs ran a sample “I want to donate to Ukraine” online search, we found 927,000 results. Needless to say, it’s doubtful that any of this is legit.

The Ukrainian Airbnb scam

Shortly after the Russian invasion of Ukraine, a rather ingenious idea emerged in which people were booking stays at Airbnb locations in places like kyiv to get money directly into Ukrainian bank accounts. But rather than go, kind souls left Airbnb hosts a note saying they wouldn’t come and should use the money as their version of humanitarian aid. Unfortunately, this good intention went wrong.

“While the Airbnb donation program is a wonderful idea and has been helpful, due to ghost listings and exploitation of scammers, Airbnb has repressed dramatically, which has inhibited the flow of funds to those in need,” Adam Levin, former New Jersey State Consumer Affairs Director and author of the Safety Manifesto slippedsaid ConsumerAffairs.

Levin isn’t saying it’s enough to completely ignore the idea of ​​Airbnb — just be careful.

“If you’re still inclined to donate through the Airbnb network, confirm that the listing has been built over time,” Levin suggested. “[But] beware of multiple listings, it could be a business trying to cash in on the outpouring of support rather than a family in need.

Other new scams to know about

As scammers become more sophisticated, it becomes increasingly difficult to instantly spot a potential scheme. Fortunately, in this situation, many organizations step in to prevent scammers from making money from human tragedy.

While spelling and grammatical errors and gift card requests are always hallmarks of a scam, ConsumerAffairs went in search of some new tricks that might help in today’s finer scam world. today. Here is what we found:

Websites whose URL contains “Ukraine”. Anyone, including scammers, can register a domain name containing almost any possible word combination. For example, when ConsumerAffairs searched for variations of “”, we found nearly 30 variations ranging from “” and “” to “”.

ESET security researchers have already done their homework on fake URLs and found several areas related to Ukraine that people should “beware”.

Beware of group social networks. ESET researchers said they also saw emotional requests for help based on social media “groups”. ConsumerAffairs found several communities related to “Help Ukraine” on Reddit – two with tens of thousands of members. Over 50 results came up when we searched for Facebook groups related to “Help Ukraine”.

“Be wary of social media posts that promote a charity unless you verify that the organization is legitimate. The friend recommending it may not have done their research, and the number of likes for a social media post also doesn’t say much about its legitimacy,” ESET researchers said.

How do you know if a charity is really legitimate?

Consumers who wish to verify that the charity to which they are donating is legitimate can use Candid and CharityBrowser. In its coverage of the Ukrainian donation situation, the Council on Foundations came across as a big Candid cheerleader. He credited the organization with tracking 310 Ukraine-related grants worth $443 million and another $333 million in pledges.

The Council of Foundations has also offers carefully vetted response funds that people can feel safe to donate, as well as non-profit organizations for people who sympathize with those affected in Russia.

“You should also check with your state’s Bureau of Charities,” Levin told us. “They are usually part of the state Division of Consumer Affairs or your state’s attorney general’s office.”

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