The intense focus that Russia's state media places on Gazprom’s subsea gas export pipeline Nord Stream 2 and on record high prices in the European spot market for gas deliveries has helped a new scam gain ground in the country, taking advantage of that all-too human interest in making a quick buck.
According to reports in Moscow, the Russian Internet saw the emergence of over 40 fraudulent websites in the third quarter of 2021.
The tricksters offer ordinary Russians a chance to invest their savings and profit from the gas shortages and panic that state media tells them is gripping the European gas market.
Fraudsters try to persuade individuals that they know ways around Russian legislation to allow investors to underpin deliveries of Russian gas to European gas hubs, where it may be sold at huge profit.
Russian authorities have regulated domestic gas price for Gazprom at $60 per thousand cubic metres recently, compared with the rates of more than $750 per thousand cubic metres seen recently in Europe.
Russian laws gives Gazprom and its wholly owned subsidiaries a monopoly over pipeline gas exports from the country to international markets, but fraudsters offer investors a way around this.
Moscow business daily Kommersant said the scammers start by obtaining phone numbers of potential victims. They then arrange follow-up phone calls, with well trained operators trying to lure people into making an advance payment to book a volume of gas for export, while also disclosing personal details and access codes to payment cards.
While Russian energy industry players have been unsuccessfully trying to challenge the Gazprom’s export monopoly to get space in its export pipelines, the inhabitants of the virtual world are, once again, offering a way around reality.