During the Artsakh war in the fall of 2020, residents of Armenia and the Diaspora as well as foreigners donated money and other items to help those on the front lines, those affected by the war, and the displaced.https://www.facebook.com/v3.2/plugins/quote.php?app_id=468673766529308&channel=https%3A%2F%2Fstaticxx.facebook.com%2Fx%2Fconnect%2Fxd_arbiter%2F%3Fversion%3D46%23cb%3Df45d9567e629e4%26domain%3Dhetq.am%26origin%3Dhttps%253A%252F%252Fhetq.am%252Ff19886b38132dd%26relation%3Dparent.parent&container_width=930&href=https%3A%2F%2Fhetq.am%2Fen%2Farticle%2F128757&locale=en_US&sdk=joey
The big wave of aid was an opportunity for some groups engaged in fraudulent activity to organize fake fundraisers and misappropriate public funds.
The RA Police investigated cases of fraud committed using .org and .com domains but could not find the culprits. Cases have been filed against fundraisers organized on the social media network Facebook. Some have gone unpunished, while others are under preliminary investigation. The RA law enforcement bodies informed us that no person has been arrested for committing fraud.
The Hetq Media Factory Team attempted to fully investigate online and offline cases of money extorted fraudulently during the war.
In the post-war period, our research showed that the aid collected did not serve its purpose in all cases; successful and unsuccessful attempts at embezzlement and fraudulent fundraising were documented.
Fake websites resembling the Hayastan All Armenian Fund
During the war, RA state institutions, in particular the Ministry of Defense, called for money to be transferred to the Hayastan All Armenian Fund. From September 27th to October 20th, the word “foundation” was the number one Google search in Armenia.
Taking into account the Foundation’s reputation and reliability, fraudsters created fake websites with similarities to the Foundation’s domain name, and tried to embezzle money by confusing individual donors.
Earlier, another fake website similar to himnadram.org was shared, where the letters n and m were switched on the URL. The appearance of this website (its interface) was an exact replica of the real website of the Foundation. It was obvious that it was specifically created to embezzle the transferred funds. After active appeals from citizens, Armen Mkrtchyan, who was vocal about the domain registered under NameSilo.com, put out an email saying that the website was blocked.
There were also examples of fundraisers that could immediately be identified as fake, owing to the website and content containing grammatical and spelling errors. This was the case with the page zinvorner (soldiers) on donationalerts.com. During the war, a call was posted on the Facebook page https://www.facebook.com/v3.2/plugins/quote.php? (“Everything will end in silence one day”), which explained step-by-step how to donate money “for a good cause”.
There is no report published on the website regarding how money donated in the past was used or how money currently donated will be spent. There is no mention of contact details or names of the organizers on the website. Rather, through the who.is online tool, we see that the website was registered in 2015, and we learn from alexa.com that it has high visibility in Russia and the USA.https://www.facebook.com/v3.2/plugins/quote.php?app_id=468673766529308&channel=https%3A%2F%2Fstaticxx.facebook.com%2Fx%2Fconnect%2Fxd_arbiter%2F%3Fversion%3D46%23cb%3Df45d9567e629e4%26domain%3Dhetq.am%26origin%3Dhttps%253A%252F%252Fhetq.am%252Ff19886b38132dd%26relation%3Dparent.parent&container_width=930&href=https%3A%2F%2Fhetq.am%2Fen%2Farticle%2F128757&locale=en_US&sdk=joey
The police announced that only preliminary investigations were carried out on the websites Hinmadram.org, Himnadramfund.org, and Donationsalerts.com regarding the current fundraisers and that, during this time, it was not possible to get information on those registering domain names or people who donated money to the fundraisers.
At the same time, the police noted that authority over .org and .com domains are not within the jurisdiction of RA law enforcement bodies. In accordance with international frameworks, information on these sites can only be obtained when a criminal case based on fraudulence and abuse of trust has been opened by individuals or legal entities who have submitted applications or reported crimes about money stolen from them.
The same bank accounts on Armenian and Azerbaijani telegram channels
Fundraising was carried out on the Новости Армении (Armenian News) telegram channel to provide assistance to the victims of the Second Artsakh War. The page encouraged financial assistance to be sent to the card account 4890 4947 0987 4051. The Azerbaijani Азербайджан | Новости (Azerbaijan | News) also called for money transfers to the same card account using Telegram, allegedly to support Azerbaijani citizens who suffered as a result of the war.