Quick Loan Fraud: Balkan Victims Left Helpless – and Indebted

"I want to donate money, I need [your] ID," is the Facebook message that changed Marija's life. It was a message that has brought her a lot of anxiety and a large debt, all from a few quick loans and the shame that she let it happen to her at all. Because of that shame, she spoke to BIRN on condition that we not use her real name and refer to her only as Marija.

The message came a few days after New Year, after she'd shared a crowdfunding call on Facebook for a boy suffering from cancer, asking for donations for his treatment abroad.

It was not the first time that she had shared this kind of post. Marija herself has donated to similar causes, trying to help as much as she could. But now the urge to help became even greater, because only a few months earlier she had become a mother.

"I'm in front of Western (Union) right now," the woman wrote to her on Facebook, sending her a picture of her own ID, accompanied by a photo of the money transfer branch she was standing in front of.

The woman explained that she was abroad and was trying to donate for the sick boy, but the transaction had been rejected. Because of this, she was urgently looking for someone whose account she could send the money to in North Macedonia.

Marija was tired, struggling with postpartum depression, but eager to help. So she sent everything the woman asked for on Facebook: a photo of an ID card, her bank account, her healthcare number… Finally, she took a selfie of herself holding her ID card in front of her, because Western Union do detailed checks. It was a transfer from abroad, after all.

It was the first time she'd received money in this manner, so she was not suspicious when the next day the woman asked her for a second bank account - her husband's -...

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