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10 cyberattacks related to the Russia Ukraine conflict to watch for
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Kim's column

Incoming! 10 Russia-Ukraine war scams hitting your email, phone, and social media

The Russia-Ukraine conflict is nearly 6,000 miles from our border, but it’s likely already affecting you here at home.

You probably see a hit to your 401K and financial portfolio. As those go down, gas prices are going up. Tap or click here for simple ways to find the best gas prices in your area.

Whenever there’s an event of mass impact, hackers, scammers, and thieves take advantage of the situation. Here’s a list of scams we can expect to see as the Russia-Ukraine war heats up.

Note that scammers will contact you via calls, text, email, or social media. If you have anyone older in your family, they are very susceptible to falling for these scams. Please share this post with them on your social media or email it with a link.

1. Help, help, I’m stuck here

Here’s an all-too-common trope: A scammer pretends to a family member or friend, claiming to be stuck somewhere and in need of money. One of the most common examples of this is the “grandparent scam,” in which a thief impersonates an older person’s grandchild and claims to be saddled with an expensive repair bill or even stuck in jail.

In this case, you may hear from a close contact who says they are stuck in the Ukraine or Russia. Maybe they need money for a plane ticket out or claim to have lost their passport. They’ll raise the stakes, too, telling you they got robbed or all the banks are closed. 

The scariest part is how easy it is to manipulate photos to back this up. A clever criminal can easily show your loved one in the Ukraine or Russia to make you believe it. Always check in with your loved one through another means of communication. For example, if they are texting, send an email or, better yet, give them a call.

SPOT THE FAKES: How to tell if a photo has been manipulated

2. We need your support now more than ever

In times of crisis, we turn to others for help or step up to assist. You need to be extra vigilant about donating money to GoFundMe pages or other relief efforts right now. Scammers use our kindest instincts against us to steal money through fake aid campaigns.

If you are donating money through an organization like the American Red Cross, for example, be sure you’re on the actual Red Cross site and not a cleverly-disguised phishing site. It’s easy to copy the look of a website and steal official logos. The real tip-off is the URL. Don’t rely on a link you received from someone or clicked on social media; navigate to the official website yourself.

3. But it looks and sounds SO real

Today’s deepfake technology makes it easier than you’d believe in producing high-quality videos or audio clips of a public figure saying or doing something that never happened in real life.

As you encounter videos of Putin and other political figures on social media or YouTube, keep your guard up. If the video is designed to make you angry or act in some way, it very well may be a disinformation campaign at work. 

Remember, disinformation videos are designed to look natural. It’s not uncommon for these videos to use CGI technology and paid actors.

Tap or click here to listen to my podcast on how the lies that spread on social media can change history.

4. I have money, lots of money

This one is a twist on the old Nigerian Prince scams. Someone with a lot of money needs to move that money to leave the country — but they can’t do it without your help. Of course, you’ll need to pay transfer fees. If you receive such a message, report it as spam and delete it.

Scam texts aren’t just annoying. They’re one more way for tricky scammers to trick you into giving up your information or your money. Tap or click for tricks to spot scam texts and your best defense against them.

5. I can show you how to time the market

In times of strife, there’s always someone looking to make a buck. The stock market and cryptocurrency are down, and that presents an opportunity — at least that’s what a crook wants you to believe. The same goes for pitches you get to invest in stocks from cybersecurity companies to ammunition.

Here’s the truth: Anyone that reaches out to you unsolicited with financial advice is in it to make money themselves. 

6. If I could just give my loved one a proper burial

The funeral scam surfaces during national tragedies, natural disasters and wartime: Pleas for money to bury deceased family members or plane tickets to attend a funeral. It’s easy to see why people fall for this ploy. 

Emotions take over, and you want to help. Treat emails or other communications with caution, and don’t send money directly to someone you don’t know through a payment app or website.

7. I’m defending your freedom

Fraudsters won’t just play on your emotions to help others. They will appeal to your sense of patriotism, too. Think twice if you hear from someone claiming to be an American soldier stuck in Ukraine.

The American service personnel con may ask you for money, help get a message to their family, or supplies. Similarly, these requests can come from someone claiming to be a Ukrainian or Russian soldier, too.

RELATED: 5 silly mistakes putting your online privacy and security at huge risk

8. Do as I say or else

Cybercriminals often use urgency to push us to make bad decisions. When you’re feeling flustered, you may do things you wouldn’t in a calmer state. That’s why phony calls threatening jail time from the IRS work so well.

That’s also why fake emails or calls from your boss or a higher-up at your company work, too. They almost always have an urgent tone, asking you to send money or information right now

If you receive an unusual request, contact this person in another way to verify the request. 

9. It looks so legit

Gas prices are going up, and you can bet fake sites and apps that tell you where the lowest gas prices are in your area will be coming out of the woodwork. Don’t trust anything new that pops up. 

Instead, go with an established option you can trust. I like Waze and GasBuddy for this purpose. Tap or click here for a direct download link for GasBuddy and steps on how to use it.

10. I will love you until the end of time

Romance scams are incredibly effective. The FBI says victims of romance fraud lost $1 billion in 2021 — and that’s just what was reported. Why do they work so well?

When we’re falling in love or just attracted to someone, our defenses are down. We don’t want to believe that a beautiful woman or charming man isn’t who they say they are. 

Be on the watch for anyone who tells you they need to leave Ukraine or Russia immediately because of the war, and they want to build a new life with you. This scammer will send you photos, videos and even sext with you. Then, the money requests start for food, rent, and airline tickets to come to see you. Spoiler: You’ll never meet them in person.

Bonus Tip: How to boost your tax refund this year

The IRS has new changes, including the $600 rule, WFH deductions, child tax credits and more. In this episode, tax accountant Rachel Cheek and I dive into the many ways deductions, forms, social media and rules will impact your 2021 tax return.

Check out my podcast “Kim Komando Explains” on Apple, Google Podcasts, Spotify, or your favorite podcast player.

Listen to the podcast here or wherever you get your podcasts. Just search for my last name, “Komando.”

What digital lifestyle questions do you have? Call Kim’s national radio show and tap or click here to find it on your local radio station. You can listen to or watch The Kim Komando Show on your phone, tablet, television, or computer. Or tap or click here for Kim’s free podcasts.

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