The ongoing coronavirus pandemic has created newfound opportunities for fraudsters to scam desperate and unsuspecting people. Canadians reportedly lost more than $1.2 million collectively to COVID-19 related scams, while Americans continue to fall for targeted scams such as phone calls about expedited stimulus checks, fake miracle cures, and blood and saliva from ‘COVID survivors.’
And though the vast majority of these scams are COVID-19 related and target elderly citizens, one fraudster decided to get creative by pretending to be UFC fighter Aleksei Oleinik.
According to Edgard Zapashny, a well known Russian circus owner, he was scammed out of 50,000 rubles (approx. $650) by someone who contacted him on WhatsApp pretending to be the UFC heavyweight. Zapashny, who took to social media to explain the incident, revealed that the scammer asked him to send money because his sister was in dire need of medical attention.
Though the number was unfamiliar to Zapashny, he eventually agreed to send the money. Afterwards, he decided to call Oleinik, whom he knew in person, to confirm the situation. When Oleinik revealed that he was not involved in the incident, Zapashny realized that he had been scammed.
“I feel insulted having lost this money today only because I know that such a creature would never help anyone,” Zapashny said on Instagram the following day.
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В течении года я и мой брат @askoldzap переводим очень серьёзные деньги на благотворительность! Каждый раз,помогая кому то,мы знаем ,что эти деньги для этого человека(почти всегда это ребёнок) гораздо важнее ,чем для нас сейчас! Потеряв сумму сегодня я ощутил обиду лишь потому,что такая тварь никогда и никому не поможет,он их просто украл!!! #меняобманули #вордолженсидетьвтюрьме #неправильно#живитепосовести #запашный#лисин
When asked to comment on the situation, Oleinik told reporters that he was in “disbelief” with the situation, especially since Zapashny had his real phone number.
“He said that he was distracted during a live stream and sent money because he thought that I really needed it”, Oleinik explained.
Zapashny, an animal trainer by profession, is the general director of the state-owned Big Moscow Circus, which is known for its cruel animal performances such as lion taming and dancing bears.