Scammers exploit victims' pro-Russian sentiment

Fraudsters impersonate Putin’s close allies and ask for your help to move millions around – a mission impossible for Russian businesses since the invasion of Ukraine.

The email comes out of the blue, yet it's tied with current events to make it more convincing.

This time, scammers impersonate a close ally of Vladimir Putin, Viktor Zubkov. Zubkov, who served as the 36th Prime Minister of Russia in 2007-2008, and Putin's First Deputy Prime Minister during the presidency of Dmitry Medvedev, is also a board member of Gazprom, a state-owned energy giant.

This particular scam bets on a victim's pro-Russian sentiment, maybe hoping it can even grow stronger with that much money at stake. It is designed as a typical inheritance scam.

"Considering the current economic sanctions melted [sic] on Russia by some European countries and the United States of America, which is seriously affecting us now, I'm soliciting for your consent to transfer sixty eight million dollars ($68M) investment funds deposited with an American bank into your personal bank account for investment and also to escape confiscation by USA Government. Please respond back for more details," the email, allegedly signed by Zubkov, reads.

Scam email

Blinded by a sudden yet fake opportunity to get rich quickly, victims agree to share their accounts to which a fraudster could transfer the money. Criminals ask for more than an account number – they purport to extract as many banking and personal details from the victim as possible, only to drain the account moments later.

Victims might be persuaded to pay charges and costs related to the transfer, believing the sum they have to pay is tiny compared to the promised fortune.

Following the invasion of Ukraine on February 24, Russia was hit by international sanctions, making it hard or impossible for companies to move money around.

Gazprom is a power instrument for Putin. With winter approaching, he is threatening Europe not to resume gas supplies until the sanctions are lifted.