It doesn’t take much to get scammers to do something reprehensible. Usually money gets them motivated, and in the latest scam, pretending to be the Ukraine is the go.
You may not realise it, but even though scams are constant and always happening, many are inspired by real-world events.
Tax scams where scammers purport to be from the ATO typically kick in around tax time from July, and there were plenty of scams about covid vaccines popping up when vaccines were on their way out. It’s not thoroughly unusual to see scammers tuning into world events in an attempt to get money out of you, and it seems that’s exactly what’s going on with world events this week.
A fellow journalist picked up on something of that exact nature, when she was emailed a rather awful scam, noting that:
Your help is needed in Ukraine where there are already more than 2.9 million people in need of assistance! Please let us know how much you willing to support us.
I am contacting you directly because you will be remember .
president of Ukraine
The email came from
firstname.lastname@example.org, which is clearly an attempt to recreate the email of the real Volodymyr Zelenskyy, the President of the Ukraine, but if you didn’t know what to look for, it might be easy to get confused.
Ignoring that the scammer emailing didn’t even spell the president’s own name correctly (it has two Ys), here’s why.
How to tell this is a scam
Email addresses are funny things, because even though anyone can buy a web address and use it for an email, you can’t buy the real thing. You can get close, as we’ve written about before, but you can’t nail it.
The Ukrainian government uses the website address of president.gov.ua, which is a Ukrainian government domain TLD (the
.gov.ua) part. Meanwhile, this scammer is using
presidentgov-au.com, something similar that also isn’t the same. It’s a commercial site, not a government site, and you need to actually be in government to get a government site.
It is clearly a scam, but if you didn’t know what you were looking at, you could think it’s legit.
Using WHOIS to work out scammers
For an extra bit of research, you can check who registered the website to see whether it’s legitimate or not, using the WHOIS system on websites or built into some computers to read what it says.
As an example, using a Mac, we can type “whois” into a Terminal window, and find that there’s clearly an administrative and technical contact for the real Ukrainian presidency website, while the scammer is hiding behind a domain privacy setup.
You can’t easily find out who the scammer is, but it’s clearly not the real deal.
How to actually donate to the Ukraine
Quite clearly, you shouldn’t reply back to someone proclaiming to be President Zelenskyy. He clearly has more to do than randomly email you to solicit for donations, and that is clearly a scam. A truly, utterly, reprehensible scam.
However if you do want to donate to the Ukraine, consider one of the many ways that have popped up in recent days, including:
- Donating using the UN Crisis Relief page
- Donate to the Ukraine at CARE Australia
- Donated via the Australian Red Cross
Alternatively, consider checking out an article over at The Conversation detailing some of the other ways you can donate to the Ukraine, or even consider buying some games from an Itch.io package garnering support.
But don’t email back to someone purporting to be the president of the Ukraine. It’s not worth your time, good will, or even the money you were thinking of putting to a good purpose. It’s yet another scammer being dodgy as all get out.