Explosion in Russia
Russia was forced to issue a warning urging residents to beware of phone scammers allegedly tricking elderly Russians into torching enlistment offices.
State media reported a “sharp increase” in arson attacks in recent weeks, claiming hackers from Ukraine had launched a scam campaign to sabotage the military effort.
State news agency RIA Novosti said the incidents are the results of a variation of the same scam aimed at destroying Russian enlistment offices and stealing money from non-tech-savvy residents.
The Russian Ministry of Interior said: “They not only steal the money of deceived Russians but also try to involve them in committing sabotage and terrorist acts.”
Officials said scammers usually contact their victims via phone and raise the alarm about suspicious banking transactions.
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The unsuspecting residents are then asked to help the authorities “stop criminals”, sharing the details of their bank accounts to prevent the inexistent thieves from further stealing from the accounts – only for the scammer to get access to the money.
The second phase of the scam includes an offer to either get their money back from the fictional thief, help catch the fraudster or get direct revenge on the criminal, thus pushing “their easily influenced victims into crime.”
Officials have also claimed the scammers allegedly also resorted to threatening their victims outright into committing a criminal act with violence.
They added: “But whatever the pretext, everything ends the same way. A demand to set fire to military, transport or banking infrastructure.”
Local reports have showed that an estimated three dozen enlistment and military offices have been set ablaze since the end of July.
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Several of the accused arsonists defended themselves saying they had been swindled by fraudsters pretending to be members of Russia’s Federal Security Service.
A 66-year-old woman was arrested last week after she was filmed setting fire to the door of an enlistment centre in St Petersburg.
She claimed she had been instructed to torch the office by someone pretending to be a member of the “security service” who first contacted her in May.
The woman said the pretend agent allegedly convinced her to join in a scheme to catch a scammer who they claimed had attempted to dupe her.
State media said officials noted scammers had “massively” increased the use of the scam over the past week in what Kremlin officials claimed to be part of Ukraine’s effort to undermine Russian military capabilities.
The Prosecutor General’s Office said the increase in attacks coincided “in time with the dates of the successful advance of the Armed Forces of the Russian Federation in the zone of the special military operation.”
Authorities reminded residents security officers do not involve civilians in investigative work or in security activities.
The prosecutor’s office warned any Russian found to have followed the instructions of the alleged scammers would face dire consequences.
Officials added: “It should be taken into account that such acts related to arson, explosions, other deliberate destruction and damage to government facilities can be regarded as a terrorist act.”
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