Swiss police investigate fake ad campaign on energy wasting

GENEVA (AP) — Swiss police are investigating a fake advertising campaign that appeared on social media and shows a poster urging people to snitch on their neighbors if they heat their homes too much this winter — when an energy crunch is expected to hit Western Europe.

The bogus ad, which appears to be in public such as on a bus stop shelter, offers 200 Swiss francs (about $200) for anonymous tips that point the finger at people who heat their homes more than 19 C (66 F) this winter. Pictures of the poster reportedly turned up on the Russian social media platform Telegram.

The ad shows a young woman on a mobile phone above the message: “Is your neighbor heating his home above 19 degrees? Please inform us,” above a phone number — reportedly of the Swiss federal energy department. At top left is the Swiss Confederation’s coat of arms — a logo unmistakable to nearly all Swiss.

On its website, the department warned against the “false” message and called it a “manipulation.” Swiss public broadcaster SRF reported that pictures of the poster appeared on Russian Telegram channels, were picked up by Belarus’ Belta news agency, and the Russian television channel RT recently ran a fake report on fines for people who heat their homes excessively in Switzerland.

The Swiss federal police said Thursday they had received a complaint for “abusive use” of the coat of arms and other possible misdemeanors, and were investigating.

The Swiss government has launched a campaign encouraging the Swiss not to waste energy amid the expected energy crunch linked to reduced supplies of oil and gas from Russia in the wake of its war in Ukraine. Consumers have been advised to take measures such as lowering the thermostat, covering pots and pans while cooking, and turning off lights and appliances when not in use.

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