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Police suspect thousands of Finnish firms may be victims of domain name fraud

Companies were sold the rights to a domain name under contracts that were to last for up to 10 years, but the rights ran out after one year in most cases.

The suspected domain name fraud cases occurred between 2019 and 2021. Image: Timo Nykyri / Yle

The Financial Crime Unit of the Oulu Police Department is investigating a nationwide series of fraud cases involving domain names which may have affected thousands of Finnish companies.

The suspected crimes are related to fradulent telesales calls from Spain, and the offences being investigated by the unit include aggravated fraud, attempted aggravated fraud as well as marketing crimes.

The suspected fraudsters have sold domain names to customers on 5-10 year contracts, but in reality the domain names were only valid for one year. However, they have continued to bill companies for the entire duration of the contract.

This is an exceptionally large-scale fraud case, police said, and Finnish companies are so far the only known victims.

"The individual sums are not huge, but together they add up to a fairly large amount of money. This is an exceptionally large investigation because there are hundreds, if not thousands, of cases all over Finland," Detective Inspector Kari Pakanen of the Oulu Police Department told Yle.

The amounts of money depended entirely on the length of the contracts signed, Pakanen further explained. For example,the price for a ten-year contract may have amounted to 1,550 euros.

The suspects sold customers domain names ending in _.net, _.org, _.com, _.live, _.info and as well as other domains.

Police believe the suspected crimes take place between 2019 and 2021. The suspects are known to Finnish police, as they are all Finnish nationals living in Spain, but they have not yet been located.

The invoicing companies in the suspected fraud cases were Etelä-Suomen laskutuspalvelu Oy, Suomen lasku ja talous Oy and JPS Yrityspalvelu Oy.

Several hundred reports of domain name fraud have been filed with police all over Finland. However, investigating officers believe that a significant number of companies and organisations that have been scammed may not yet have reported the case to the police.

"There are certainly many more victims. Not all of them may even come forward," Pakanen said.

The Financial Crime Unit has asked any company or organisation that has been invoiced for a domain name by one of the three entities — Etelä-Suomen laskutuspalvelu Oy, Suomen lasku ja talous Oy or JPS Yrityspalvelu Oy — to contact police before 30 November 2022.

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