The central bank of the Russian Federation has identified more than 1,500 organisations suspected of engaging in illegal financial service activity in 2020, as online fraud “surged” during the Covid-19 pandemic.
The Bank of Russia identified 1,549 organisations suspected of illegal activity in 2020, including 821 illegal lenders, 395 illegal forex dealers and 222 involved in financial pyramid schemes.
The bank said the main trend of 2020 was a “massive transition” of illegal activity online, particularly for organisations involved in pushing pyramid schemes and illegal forex dealing. The bank said this trend was explained by restrictions imposed due to the pandemic and growing demand for remote services.
“Fraudsters actively use new technologies, employ popular themes and brainwashing. They enlist popular bloggers to support their projects and lure customers in messengers’, said Valeriy Lyakh, Director of the Department for Countering Misconduct at the Bank of Russia.
‘Financial services consumers must remember this not to fall victim to fraudsters and lose their money. You cannot beat a criminal on its ground.
“If you continue to invest in a dubious project, knowing that it is illegal, then you help promote the pyramid and deceive new customers.’
The report said that the number of illegal creditors identified in 2020 decreased, due to Covid-19 restriction. It said most illegal lenders, as opposed to forex dealers and pyramid scheme operators, prefer to operate offline and have therefore had their activity restricted.
The report does not quantify the rate at which online illicit activity has increased or the amount by which offline illegal lending went down.