One of the greatest effects of war is always massive migration. According to the United Nations refugee agency, more than 3.9 million people have fled Ukraine mainly to its neighboring countries Poland, Romania, and Moldova. The speed and scale of the displacement had not been seen in Europe since World War II, and it certainly has been keeping busy its governments and all sorts of aid organizations. The daily flow of refugees through the borders is enormous, with Poland and Romania hosting the largest number of refugees. Many of those who cross into Ukraine’s immediate western neighbors keep moving onto other states in Europe’s Schengen open-borders zone.
The European Union activated a temporary reception mechanism since the beginning of March, that allows Ukrainians to obtain a visa, work authorization, healthcare, and education in any EU country. The right of residence in Poland has been legalized for 18 months, and they are eligible for a national identity number and benefits. Other recent massive migration experiences have made clear that the governments assistance measures are insufficient most of the times, which is why volunteers and non-profit organizations mobilize to cover the gaps.
The dark side is that in this conflictive context, criminals see an opportunity. Sadly, the magnitude of the tragedy only provides a convincing excuse for online scammers. Taking advantage of other people’s suffering is terrible, yet that won’t stop the scammers from using war victims to obtain a profit themselves. In the past month, Wymoo International investigators in Romania and Poland have already seen an increase in fraud cases coming from scammers who claim to be raising funds for humanitarian help.
Charity scams are some of the most profitable, as scammers can raise a lot of money quickly, no questions asked. Most people are moved by the cause and simply want to send help fast. This is where scammers take the opportunity to impersonate real non-profit organizations like the Red Cross, or pretend to be pastors from churches raising funds, or even just regular people trying to help someone in need.
Another expected increase comes from romance scams involving Romanian and Polish fraudsters. The number of romance scam cases in Poland had already been growing before the war in Ukraine, and Romania has been in the top high-risk countries for this kind of scam for a long time. Online scammers in these countries have now the opportunity to use the war in Ukraine as some kind of excuse to request more funds, the same as what happened with Covid-19. It is likely that scammers will ask their victims for funds to pay hospital bills, to help relatives that are supposedly escaping the war, etc. Criminals are creative, so they will find many different stories to tell.
The important thing in this situation is to keep your eyes open. Sending help is great, but make sure your help is indeed getting to the right hands. If you are donating through an organization, verify that they are legitimate and that your contact is in fact someone who represents the organization. If you meet online someone in Poland or Romania, hire a dating background check investigation from a reputable investigator.
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