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Finns lose record €33m to online scammers in 2021

While scammers often target elderly people, young adults have also fallen victim.

Phishing scams are reportedly more sophisticated now than ever before Image: Eleni Paspatis / Yle

Online scammers have conned victims in Finland out of 33 million euros so far this year, according to Finnish police. This is a new record, topping the estimated 25 million euros fraudsters bilked from victims last year.

Victims have reportedly been targeted with a wide variety of online hoaxes, including romance scams, whereby criminals adopt a fake identity to win the trust of their target.

Other methods used by fraudsters to get people to part with their money include impersonating a relative or a police officer.

Several people in Finland have also fallen victim to investment scams involving cryptocurrency, fraudulent text messages or emails claiming to be from a bank or national mail carrier Posti, as well as through fake versions of existing websites.

"There were a total of about 2,300 cases of online fraud whereby people were tricked into losing money this year, and the financial losses amounted to around 33 million euros—quite a significant sum," Superintendent Tuomas Pöyhönen of the National Police Board said.

When taking into account items that people ordered online but never received, such as concert tickets and other merchandise, the total number of fraud victims would rise to about 20,000.

According to police, a number of senior citizens and young adults, particularly students, have lost all their savings to online scams.

"Those who fall in the 70–79 age bracket make up the majority of victims, that is, about 25 percent. The next highest number—20 percent of the victims—are aged 60–70, but there is a steady rise in the number of scams targeting men and women aged 20 and above," Pöyhönen added.

Users are unable to distinguish between fake and authentic websites

Email and SMS scams are especially effective when the victim is in a hurry, as they use language and terminology that appear official and are reminiscent of the organisation that they impersonate.

Last summer, police warned against a phishing scam (siirryt toiseen palveluun) that convinced people to share personal information such as online banking details on fake websites that closely resemble real banking websites.

As it can be difficult to distinguish between fraudulent and genuine websites, customers are recommended to use the bank's mobile app or bookmarked pages instead.

Fraudsters have even developed a way to effectively impersonate the post office as a means of targeting online shoppers.

"A message that states "we were unable to deliver your package, click here" will appear on your phone. If you have previously received a package via the post office, the scam message will appear in the same thread so it seems like it was sent from the actual source. Unfortunately, criminals now have the technology and the know-how to make this possible," Pöyhönen said.

The fear of being scammed often deters customers from using legitimate online services offered by banks, shops and other service providers.

While this encourages companies and operators to make their services safer, Pöyhönen says he believes that users also need to be vigilant.

He recommends contacting the bank immediately in case of a suspected scam so that the account can be blocked or frozen.

"It is also worth informing those close to you about what has happened," he added.