Fake online lovers take millions of euros from Finland

11 Jun 2018, 18:37

  DF-Xinhua Report

DF File Photo.

Dishonest, false internet dating has become an international criminal activity, Finnish experts said at a professional meeting on Monday, noting that the country has witnessed millions of euros transferred annually by victims from Finland in such type of fraud.

Some 70 representatives of the police, the Finnish service center for victims of crimes, and financial institutions convened in Espoo, southern Finland to share experiences and look for counter remedies. The meeting was arranged at the request of the police who had felt frustrated with the situation.

Leena-Kaisa Aberg, director of the Finnish service center for victims of crimes, told national broadcaster Yle that the "person" faking as a lover on the internet can actually be several persons, working in shift hours, in another country. "Fake dating has become an operation of international organized crime," she said.

Sooner or later, the "lover" usually asks for money or other valuable benefits. Finnish Nordea Bank estimated that several million euros are transferred annually from Finland to "romantic friends" abroad.

A "tactical tool" has been developed in Finland based on the banks noticing unusual transactions. The bank will then contact the customer and try to find out whether the customer really knows the person and is aware of the situation.

 Aberg said that typically the "friends" have approached the victims on social media or dating services. They are good looking men, "American military", for example. They plan to visit Finland, but may need something for the arrangements, or they have a business that has temporary cash flow problems.

Police statistics can't give the exact number of "romantic swindling" as they are part of the wider group of betrayal crimes. Director Aberg told Yle that 90 percent of the victims are women aged between 45 and 74.

At the criminal end, there can be several persons chatting with the victim, on a shift basis. "There are, of course, also individuals acting alone and betraying in the classical way, and they are real persons," said Aberg.

Aberg said the lack of video contacts should ring alarms. "If the internet relationship is based only on writing or possibly talking, the would-be victim should suspect a danger."

Psychologist Julia Korkman told the gathering that at the time the requesting for money begins, the victim has already put "mental investment" into the relationship on the internet. By that time he or she has built "psychological defenses" that block against giving thought to possible deception.

Korkman said the situation resembles such a real relationship where one of the partners has been subject to mistreatment or violence, but keeps thinking the spouse is good. "Often a conversation with an outsider serves as an eye-opener," Korkman said.