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ISIS may be one of the greatest security threats to the world at the moment, but it seems several young women have figured out a way to outsmart them in the unlikeliest of ways. Three young women from Chechnya, a Russian republic in southeastern Europe, are under investigation for scamming the dangerous group out of money by agreeing to travel to Syria.
Turning the group's recruitment tool of social media against them, these daring con artists created fake accounts to correspond with recruiters, expressing interest in joining, but saying they lacked the funds to do so. Once the money was sent electronically from an anonymous account, the women would delete their online profiles and create new ones racking up several hundred dollars at a time. The three girls in question walked away with $3,300 before being caught.
"He began to lure me, saying: 'Do you want to come to Syria? It's very good here.' I told him that I had no money," one of the women named Maryam told Life News. She even shared a screenshot of a conversations she had with one of the ISIS men where she writes, "I have no money to buy a decent clothes, not to mention a plane ticket, what should I do brother?" The unknown gentleman responded, "I will help you as much as I can, sister, just like any other brother would."
And these women aren't the only ones scamming ISIS out of money. According to LifeNews, the Chechen police's E unit that specializes in monitoring online crime activity noticed men posing as women to get money as well. “I don’t recall any precedent like this one in Chechnya, probably because nobody digs deep enough in that direction,” police officer Valery Zolotaryov told the newspaper. “Anyhow, I don’t advise anyone to communicate with dangerous criminals, especially for grabbing quick money."
Though entirely illegal, it's actually the safety that experts say is the biggest concern in this tricky situation. "Scamming a relatively lawless and murderous entity and by all common sense isn't a good idea," security analyst Robert Siciliano told TODAY.com. "The mere fact that some of the scammers have actually been caught is proof point that either the authorities of any given country or ISIS themselves may detect who the perpetrators are. I'd say getting caught by local law enforcement would result in due process while getting caught by ISIS may result in a death sentence."
While committing fraud against ISIS is rare, Siciliano said that social media in general "has created a platform that makes all scams look more legitimate and travel has so many ways in which the user can easily be duped."
"Fraud is fraud no matter who the victims are or the perpetrator,” he added. Terrorists or not, scamming someone out of money is illegal and these swindlers technically face up to six years of jail time, though it seems unlikely after a public outcry of support. Plus, a formal complaint needs to be lodged by the fraud victim — something unlikely to happen with the militant group.
Dubbed patriotic by some, these ultimate catfishers are being considered modern day Robin Hoods by some, and Maryam has already said she now prefers not to speak with strangers online. In fact, this scam could even lead to a new way of tracking these dangerous individuals and their movements. Siciliano added, "Any additional intelligence provides law enforcement insight to facilitate an investigation."