Analysis of "A fake wedding, and a $250,000 scam"

(Posted: July 2021) There are some "bad people" in the world, including SOME women in Ukraine and Russia who attempt to steal your money via elaborate dating and marriage scams.

As obvious as this statement may seem, clearly people need to be reminded of it periodically, as evidenced by a recent article in the BBC. You can find it here:
A fake wedding, and a $250,000 scam
By Jonah Fisher
BBC Kyiv correspondent
June 22, 2021

This story describes one particular Ukrainian fake marriage scam, recounting in minute detail the story of how a man was swindled out of his life savings by such scammers.

The subject of this story in the BBC, "James" (a pseudonym), says he told the BBC his story "to warn others tempted to seek romance in Ukraine".

Apologies in advance to "James"

I don't write this to personally insult James, only to help you learn from his experience here and avoid his mistakes. James himself acknowledges that he was a "fool"...
And what would you say to someone who reads your story and says "What a fool!"?

"They'd be right," [James] says.

James says he decided to tell the BBC his story to warn others tempted to seek romance in Ukraine.

So any "beatings" I give James here are with the same end goal that he himself had in sharing this story in the first place: To warn others tempted to seek romance in Ukraine.

This is easily avoidable

So what of it... Is Ukraine full of these cunning con artists looking to fleece every unsuspecting male victim of his life's savings using very clever, intricate strategies? And most importantly, COULD IT HAPPEN TO YOU?

First, remember my opening sentence above about there being some "bad people" in the world, including some Ukrainians. Don't go overboard by assuming ALL, or even most Ukrainians or Ukrainian women are "bad", but just keep near the front of your mind the fact that there ARE SOME predators out there in the big bad world. That way when you encounter them you'll be quicker at connecting the dots.

But as for the actual story here, James just walked right into this with his eyes completely closed and refusing to even SEE the dots.

Scammers of the sort James encountered exist, but they're not common and can easily be avoided with almost any common sense. James falls far short of that standard - by his own admission. And he doesn't fall short once or twice. Even after it's quite obvious that EVERYTHING is wrong, he keeps falling for it.

So let's go through the story sequentially and examine where James went wrong so that if you ever find yourself facing such signals you'll know what to do.

First: How the "radar" is supposed to work

Usually when someone says or does something that doesn't quite "fit" - it seems a little suspicious in some way - we may not need to immediately jump to any firm conclusions, but we most definitely should crank up the "bullshit radar" to a higher setting.

In other words, once you hear/see one little suspicious thing, you should be MORE ALERT for other things that don't fit. And when you see more things that don't fit, you go on even higher alert. Maybe you have one of those "bad people" on your hands. If you don't see more suspicious things, you relax a LITTLE.

And then after several suspicious things when money somehow enters the picture, you HOLD ON TO YOUR WALLET!

Where did James go wrong?

Admittedly I have the benefit of hindsight here combined with many years of hearing scam stories and being the intended target of scams, but here's how I break it down.

Irina's story

The very first thing that instantly triggers my "bullshit radar" in this story is Irina's story of her two failed marriages with Ukrainian men and her refusal to marry another Ukrainian man.

Here we have two problems.

The first is very small: Two failed marriages. It's small because it's no longer unusual for one to have two divorces by the time they're 30. But while it's not unusual, it certainly should not be completely ignored. By the time one has two divorces under their belt it's reasonable to ask WHY, and to assume that you could quickly become #3 if things progress.

But as we'll learn later in this story this first problem wasn't at play here... Irina's story seems almost entirely manufactured out of thin air.

But the second problem with this is the "victim card". That is the whole "Been divorced twice and will never marry another Ukrainian man" thing. It's designed to inspire a man's "hero instinct" to save her from this misery.

This is a relatively small signal, but one shouldn't just ignore it.

The age and attraction gap

Another clue is their age difference of 20 years. A 20 year gap can succeed, but it's on the fringe. It is not a deal-breaker in and of itself, but just one more little concern.

I also note in the pictures in the story that Irina is very attractive, and James' photos are blurred to disguise his identity. James' desire to protect his privacy is understandable, but it would be helpful to know about James' appearance... is he a very good-looking, fit 52 year old? Or does he look his age? If the gap between James' and Irina's "SMV" ("sexual market value") is as big as their age gap, that's an additional problem... not a big deal on its own, just another clue.

The super-sappy messages

"You gave me a real fairy tale. And thanks so much for that… I believe in YOU. Just you can give me this happiness. I love you," one message she sent James says.

To have a section devoted to this one quote may seem excessive, but trust me, IT'S NOT. Even in Ukraine "real" girls just don't talk like this, even when the situation is completely real and the couple later ends up successfully married.

Yeah, some may argue that there are different types of girls, and some are more sappy than others, but I'm telling YOU - the reader of my analysis here - that if a Ukrainian girl ever says things like this, you should be on your highest alert. It CAN be real, but if (1) she's a lot younger and hotter than you, and (2) everything is much more expensive than it seems like it should be (see next subsection), ETC., ETC., ETC., AND THEN she says sappy stuff like this... the odds are stacking up against you!

The Costs

The interpreter alone was up to $150/day, in ADDITION to expensive meals and entertainment. Later in the article you'll read about the phenomenal cost of the wedding and reception.

Most sincere, authentic Ukrainian women meeting/dating a foreign man actually LOOK OUT for the man's best interests (including financial), and many are very self-conscious about letting a man spend too much on them. You would feel like they are on your side.

When it seems more the opposite - that she's not on your side, but is instead the actual adversary, and ALMOST EVERYTHING is surprisingly expensive, this should set off some significant alarms.

This can be a sign that the girl is a scammer OR a "gold digger". Either way, it's not good.

Intimacy off-limits

There are certainly Ukrainian women who won't have sex before marriage, and it's hard to be very critical of that practice as it does demonstrate, as James says, "a very high moral standard".

But Irina's standards forbid even KISSING before marriage. Even the Amish allow kissing before marriage!

But Irina is 30 years old. She is not a virgin. She's been married TWICE before. And she says the relationship with James is a "fairy tale", and she credits James with her great happiness, AND they've been dating for several months, doing all these expensive things.

This is just WEIRD! You seriously can't just IGNORE signals like this. At this point even the most naive MUST be able to see that there's a LOT wrong with this story.

The requirement of buying an apartment

Then we come to the start of the really big problems... starting with the fact that it is "expected" that one BUY an apartment when getting married as it gave a sense of permanence to the relationship.

Then we find out that it's going to take $200K to buy an apartment in Odessa. It took me a grueling 3 minutes of web searching to find that $200K is an astronomical price for an apartment in Odessa.

Just open your favorite search engine and search for "apartment prices in odessa ukraine".

The vast majority of apartments for sale in Odessa are under $100K, and many of them at that price point are very nice, large apartments in great locations. And as James later learns, the $200K apartment he bought was really only $60K, so my research is right on point.

OK, so one can't rely on three minutes of web research to confidently conclude that Irina's price range is bullshit, but it at least warrants a bit more detailed research.

The idea of just acquiescing to her demand for a $200K apartment without doing this 3 minute online research task or at least asking a few questions is crazy.

But an even bigger concern here is that BIG MONEY is about to be involved in this story, and THAT absolutely must set off all alarms. ALL the previous "small signals" must now immediately come to mind and one must start connecting all those dots.

Let's hit the "Pause" button for a moment...

We'll get right back to our regularly-scheduled programming, but I must take a moment at this point to say that after all the aforementioned details of this story one should be well beyond the highest level of alertness.

At this point maybe each individual point of suspicion is inconclusive when taken separately, but considered together there is no doubt that something is wrong.

Perhaps if one is more gullible than usual, and enjoys a little drama to keep life interesting, he should at least be openly and directly challenging Irina's story and not settling for any answers that don't REALLY alleviate all suspicion.

FYI, I can tell you in advance how that challenge would go... Irina would CRY, then she would be be angry at James for doubting the sincerity of her love, she would criticize James for being greedy and thinking only about money, and then SHE would break off the relationship.

She will do all this performance art knowing that when she breaks off the relationship for these reasons James will definitely come running back begging for another chance (and she would be right).

But even apart from this confrontation, at this point in the story the level of suspicion should be so high that no thought of large money transfers should ever enter one's mind.

The weird twists involved in transferring money

Now we come to the REALLY crazy things that only the most gullible would fall for.

Let's just say for the sake of argument that an apartment really was $200K, and that it was a good idea to actually go through with buying it. In that case, especially with all the other suspicious signals up till this point, the way to go about this would be to contact a lawyer (one found with absolutely NO HELP OR INFLUENCE FROM THE GIRL or anyone she knows - the lawyer must be found completely independently), ideally one well versed in real estate and financial matters, and BUY THE APARTMENT BEFORE THE WEDDING using whatever legal method for transferring the cash his lawyer recommended, AND HAVE THE APARTMENT ONLY IN HIS NAME.

This way when James finally wakes up to all the scams he'll at least have an asset that he can use or sell.

Instead, the next step of the scam that should have awakened even the most gullible victim involved transferring James' money from the UK to Ukraine.

The article describes all these reasons why it's complicated - corruption in Ukraine, high profile banking scandals, and so on.

While Ukraine is certainly well-known for its corruption, and while there have been banking scandals, legally and safely transferring foreign money into Ukraine is a LITTLE COMPLICATED, but not SO COMPLICATED to warrant the proposed solution.

James assumes that the uncomplicated method would be to transfer money directly into Irina's account. Even that would be seriously moronic, but what happened was MUCH WORSE.

Instead of putting the money in Irina's personal account, James was told he should put the money in the company account of her friend Kristina, the wedding planner.

"Despite some misgivings, James wired the money to Kristina"... At least James had some misgivings, but he went through with it anyway.

THEN it gets even more unbelievable... "Irina announced to James that the bank would only release the money if he was legally married to Kristina"!

And James went through with ALL of it... transferring the money to Kristina and legally marrying her (with the intent of immediately divorcing after).

The wedding

James' knows in hindsight that almost all of the wedding with Irina and reception was a scam - even the guests, including even Irina's MOTHER.

Question: WHEN did he come to that conclusion? AND, even if he only realized it much later, how could he have gone through all this courtship and engagement without ever meeting Irina's family, especially her mother? Or, if he did meet them, how could he have not sensed something not quite right?

On the night of the wedding James ends up in the HOSPITAL - he suspects being DRUGGED by his new "mother-in-law". Irina ACCUSES him of embarrasing her by getting drunk at the wedding!

It's not directly stated in the article, but it is implied that the wedding to Irina never actually finalized.

Irina's medical problem

AFTER the scam marriage, AFTER being drugged and waking up in the hospital on the night of the wedding, Irina tells James (AFTER A FEW WEEKS) that she had also been in the hospital with medical problems of her own, AND HE PAID THE $12,000 bill for that too.

I must point out here that many details regarding her hospital stay and expenses are completely missing... Did James pay the $12000 to the hospital, or to her? I assume he paid her.

That's also important because I can tell you from first hand experience with medical care in Ukraine that $12000 is an extremely big medical bill. One could have open heart surgery and spend two full weeks recovering in a hospital without running up that kind of bill.

So I assume this was just a number Irina pulled out of her ass that she thought James would pay.

The Takeaway

There are criminals in Ukraine, like everywhere else in the world, scheming to defraud others out of their money. Welcome to Earth - that's how it works here. There are "bad people" and one must take reasonable measures to avoid becoming their victims.

But the idea that these are so prevelant and so crafty as to warrant special travel advice from Britain's foreign office warning people visting Ukraine about the prevalence of "marriage fraud and attempted extortion" is ridiculous.

As I've attempted to demonstrate here, in order to actually fall victim to most scams one must be pathologically gullible, ignoring one obvious sign after another, just walking into the kill.

SERIOUSLY, let's recap the highlights toward the end of the story:

  1. He agreed to transfer $200K for an apartment (without even asking questions about the price of Odessa apartments)
  2. He fell for the story that Ukraine law made it better to transfer the money to a STRANGER... And HE DID IT.
  3. THEN he fell for the story that in order for the bank to release the funds he had to MARRY the stranger... WHICH HE DID.
  4. Even after being drugged at his wedding and waking up in the hospital, being blamed by the "bride" for humiliating her by getting drunk at her wedding, he PAYS MORE for some fake medical need for her.
It's sad that there are people willing to conspire to defraud a victim out of two thirds of his life savings, but they do exist... and they would take 100% if James wouldn't have FINALLY said "STOP".

In the end, my best advice is to COME TO UKRAINE! It's a great place to visit, live, and find beautiful women for dating and marriage. But please, use your head! If you're exceedingly gullible, TOUGHEN UP. Don't just trust everything people tell you. Keep your eyes open and mind engaged and you'll be fine!