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Info@NationalCyberSecurity

YouTube and Instagram scam ad showing sick eight-year-old Russian boy, Semion, has stolen $293,000 | #youtubescams | #lovescams | #datingscams | #datingscams | #love | #relationships | #scams | #pof | #match.com | #dating


Australians have been warned not to fall for a series of social media ads urging generous do-gooders to donate to a sick child after they were found to be fake. 

The ads, which were seen on YouTube and Instagram, showed an eight-year-old boy called Semion pleading for help in Russian.

There are several different versions of the video with subtitles in English, French, Spanish and Ukrainian.

An ad (above) showing eight-year-old Semion asking for money to afford his lung cancer treatment has been revealed as fake

In the clip, Semion says that his family can’t afford treatment for his cancer, and if he doesn’t receive this treatment within the next two weeks it will be too late to save him. 

‘I appeal to your hearts,’ he pleads. ‘I don’t want to lie in bed and choke.

‘Don’t ignore me. Don’t leave me lying in bed suffering. I am only 8 years old. I didn’t plan to die at eight years old. Lung cancer can advance and slowly take my lungs completely.

‘Then even the ventilator won’t help anymore. Nothing will help me anymore and the cancer will suffocate me.

‘Give me a chance to get the treatment that will save my life.’

Avast, an antivirus company, claims the campaign is actually run by a criminal group with more than $293,000 stolen from generous donors so far.

‘The organisers of the fundraising page claim to be from World Champions EU and be linked to an Israeli organisation called World Champions,’ it said in a statement.

‘When Avast researchers reached out to World Champions for comment, they did not hear back.’

Avast uncovered a similar scam last year, also based in Israel, which stole more than $650,000 from donors. 

Avast claims the campaign is actually run by a criminal group with more than $293,000 stolen from generous donors so far (pictured, the scam's donation page)

Avast claims the campaign is actually run by a criminal group with more than $293,000 stolen from generous donors so far (pictured, the scam’s donation page)

‘As cybersecurity researchers, we constantly see how criminals exploit human nature to make money,’ Avast researcher Luis Corrons said. 

‘One of the most heart wrenching examples is when people prey on the human desire to help others, especially when it comes to exploiting sick children.

‘It’s our job to not only monitor these scams and develop products and services to help protect people against them but also to educate people about what’s spreading online.’

Mr Corrons encouraged people to take care when donating online.

‘When it comes to donating, it’s important to verify the authenticity of the organisation before you transfer money to ensure you’re helping who you think you are,’ he said.

‘To be safest, directly visit the official websites of trusted organisations to donate instead of responding to calls for donations via emails, videos or social media ads.’

In April, it was revealed Australians lost $3.1billion in scams in 2022 – a significant increase on the $2billion lost in 2021. 

Australian Competition and Consumer Commission deputy chair Catriona Lowe said scammers were becoming increasingly more sophisticated in their efforts to fleece everyday Australians out of their money. 

‘Australians lost more money to scams than ever before in 2022, but the true cost of scams is much more than a dollar figure as they also cause emotional distress to victims, their families and businesses,’ she said. 

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