Raisa Ivnovna O., an Ivano-Frankovsk resident, has fallen prey to a scam perpetrated by an organized group of fraudsters.

The fraudsters, who come from Crimea, have tricked her into parting with her money, she said on condition of anonymity.

“I’ve always been a patriot of my country and had a lot of sympathy for fellow Ukrainians. And of course I am very much concerned about the plight of the Ukrainians living in Crimea. Two months ago, I put up an ad for a cottage house for sale. The house is in a lovely location at the foot of the Carpathian Mountains. One day, I received a phone call from a man who claimed he was from Crimea and spoke good Ukrainian. He was interested in purchasing the house and complained of having a hard time in occupied Crimea due to being Ukrainian. He said he had to sell his house for a pittance to be able to purchase some property in Western Ukraine. After searching the Internet for a while he realized that my house was the only one he could afford,” says Raisa Ivanovna.

The ‘buyer’ called her in a week to say that he and his family were leaving for Ivano-Frankovsk and would be there the following day. However, he called her again in 4 hours and said in an agitated voice that he and his family got held up at the border. According to him, the border guards demanded being paid in Ukrainian hryvnas for their release. The money would have to be transferred into his telephone account. They had no relatives in Ukraine so nobody could help them in this predicament. The pensioner woman had agreed to help and the ‘buyer’ promised to pay her back the following day.

It should be noted that UAH 200 is a quite substantial amount for a pensioner getting paid a monthly pension of UAH 1,500. After transferring the money and calling a ‘border guard’, Raisa Ivanovna got assured that the money had arrived and the family crossed the border. However, both the ‘buyer’ and ‘bodyguard’’s phones had been turned off in as little as one hour.

Needless to say, she never got her money back.

Of course, she was rather naïve to have trusted perfect strangers. The cynicism of the situation is that the fraudsters took advantage of her patriotism and willingness to lend a helping hand to a fellow Ukrainian. Raisa Ivanovna might not have been the only one to have fallen prey to the fraudsters.

Does she stand a chance of getting her money back and having the fraudsters punished? That is the question QHA asked Ukrainian law enforcement officers. “Reporting situations like this to the police is the first thing one should do,” says Ivan Poleha, a press officer with the Interior Ministry.

”I can say that investigating scams like this is not an easy thing to do, but we did succeed in arresting scamsters like these on quite a few occasions. So, there’s always a chance fraudsters will get caught. Of course, one should always beware of fraudsters and never trust them. However, if you did end up in a situation like this, the first thing you should do is report the police”, he said.