Three Chechen women are currently under investigation for fraud after allegedly scamming ISIS members into giving them money. The women acted as “catfishers,” scammers who use fake Internet profiles to convince innocent people into relationships, generally for the purpose of stealing money. One of the Chechen women said it all began when an ISIS fighter in Syria contacted her on social media, requesting that she leave Chechnya and travel to Syria, where she would become a “jihadi bride.” The women said they would do it . . . for a price.
The women communicated and kept in touch with the ISIS member, even sending fake pictures, until the money they requested for travel was paid to them via a payment program very similar to PayPal. Once the money cleared, the women deleted their profiles, stopped all contact with the ISIS member and kept the money. They then repeated the scam and got away with about $3,300 before being discovered by the Chechen online crimes unit. Officer Valery Zolotaryov stated that, “[he] [didn’t] recall any precedent like this one in Chechnya, probably because nobody digs deep enough in that direction . . .Anyhow, [he] [doesn’t] advise anyone to communicate with dangerous criminals, especially for grabbing quick money.”
Although the penalty for fraud carries a maximum sentence of six years in jail, many polls indicate that these women are heroes and should not face charges “for ripping off terrorists.”
ISIS has targeted Chechnya as it is a largely Muslim Russian republic with a growing ISIS support base. Thousands of Chechens are currently fighting in Syria, and although they constitute a small percentage of ISIS fighters, analysts speculate that the Chechen-practiced guerrilla tactics have boosted the “caliphate” or Islamic government. The Chechen Muslims working with ISIS came to attention recently when ISIS commander, Abu Omar al-Shishani, known as “The Chechen,” put a bounty on the Chechen president’s head.
ISIS recently formed a Russian-speaking propaganda program called Furat Media, which translates recruitment videos and messages on various social media outlets in hopes of luring potential followers from Russia to Syria. In response, Chechnya has pushed back. During a counterterrorism training camp, Ramzan Kadyrov, head of the Chechen Republic, displayed his fury over the tactics of ISIS by stating that “there won’t even be a whiff” of ISIS in the region. He further stated that Chechnya will not allow any Chechens to return from Syria.