How elaborate do Ukraine scams get ?

by Bryan

So I've been chatting to what appears on the surface to be an ideal match for me but I have some doubts at how everything seems too good to be true. This girl (we will call her Irina) isn't the best looking in Ukraine but she's still attractive, has a wonderful personality and is very interested about my life. She first initiated contact with me on a well known UK dating site, we went through the icebreaker questions and it reached the point where she gave me her email to contact her so we could carry on the exchange, her initial reasons for being on this dating site was so she could meet people to improve her English which is already good and also so she had some friends if she ever gets around to moving.

So a week after first talking we were exchanging emails nearly everyday and there was a lot of detail in those emails, she would ask me questions to which I would reply with questions of my own and she in turn would reply in great detail. I never thought anything of it really as it was nice to be conversing with someone so interesting from another country. So she told me about her education, bits about her family, some of her likes and her dreams and about the Ukraine economy not being so great but she gets by (I asked her opinion on money so that was me). She also told me where she's currently working and even included the website so I could see it (it's a really nice place to be honest) and she also sent me some pictures and asked for some in return.

So after all this is done and about 8 or 9 replies later she asks if I use whatsapp or another messaging service. So I obliged and she sent me her number so I could add and since then we have been talking all day everyday for the last 2 weeks, we've had voice conversations, she even gives me a wake up call daily, has sent me pictures of her with her family and she usually sends me pictures of things like messages written in English to me, pictures of her workplace, the scenery, of her there in her workplace (the workplace pics I know are legit 100%) so, so far it all seems legit she is working where she says she is.

Now it was me who brought up visiting her, she was shocked saying nobody has done that for her before, money isn't an issue I have the money to fly out tomorrow and she knows this but due to her work she can't currently do a 2 week meet so I have to wait for her to finish her current job which is seasonal. We've discussed cultures & traditions, she says she wouldn't want me to spend money on her while I'm there except for little gifts and the meal on the first date and maybe buy her a drink if she's thirsty or too hot, you know nothing out of the ordinary and things most gents would do naturally. I've even gone as far as beginning to learn Ukrainian and she has been helping me, creating personalised help sheets for me (I did scan them for virus and opened them on google docs so macro's couldn't work, yes I am security conscious lol)

Things are going really great if I'm honest on the surface but I have a higher than average IQ and I'm incredibly analytical so I think of all scenarios all of the time, it's a curse at times but it helps protect me, I'm also good with computers so I've done the usual checking original source of her mails to look for IP, there's no mass mailer used but one slight flag for me is that her IP is encrypted, she's sent me a geotag location it was in the correct area but about 2km away from where she should be although I know that geotagging is not always reliable due to GSM towers in poorly receptive areas. I've used reverse image search on google for every picture she has sent and all the pictures she had on her dating profile, again absolutely nothing comes up suspect apart from her social media profile which has nothing suspect and Ukrainian site which seems to be like linkedin and has her resume.

However I still have my doubts, it's getting a little too lovey dovey and I apparently make her smile all day, we've discussed relationships and providing everything carries on the way it is I could definitely be her boyfriend. Also in my investigations I found one image on one of her social media contacts page who happens to have the same surname as her and is of the 2 of them kissing and it looks like a wedding but there's no wedding ring on her finger so it may be somebody else wedding. Now this picture was taken in 2012 and she says she hasn't had a relationship for 2 years and she says she has been married once in the past when she was 21 (she's now 28 and I'm 33) and has a past which she is going to tell me about and has fears it may put me off her but I've reassured her I value her honesty and who she is now more than her past which is true. And she has been really supportive with me, she even brought up Ukraine scammers when she asked why I wanted to keep talking to her and we've discussed it and she's asked me to tell her any way she can earn my trust.

So I want to know if you guys think this is some really fucked up elaborate scam even though she knows I'm not currently working nor does she know much about my finances (she only knows I can afford a trip to Ukraine) my heart wants it to be legit because it would be a dream come true but my mind is being it's usual rational self thinking the worst. Also I would put in exact messages she has sent but I feel if it is true then it is not right to post privately sent messages. If it turns out to be a scam then it's fair game I'll post everything I have on her!

Bob's Answer:

Wow, that's a lot of detail!

Let me first address the few things you list as causes for concern... I would NOT rely too heavily on IP geolocation... it's a general location at best. In America different IP lookup systems trace the location of an IP address to two different very distant states. Further it's not always easy to determine in email headers which IP address is intended to represent the location of the sending computer, and some email systems don't even include that information (like GMail).

As for the social media analysis, I wouldn't put too much stock in that either.

Then there's the "lovey dovey" and her claim that you make her smile all day... THAT is the one thing that usually spooks me instantly... it just rings hollow when a girl after ONE message says crap like "Now because of you I have a smile on my face all day and my friends think I'm crazy...". But there's a huge difference between "after ONE message" and after weeks/months of daily emails and now even frequent voice calls. Was this "lovey dovey" and "smiling all day" stuff at the beginning, or did it seem to increase over time? If it was immediate, I would be concerned. If it grew over time, it wouldn't concern me as much.

Given what you've told me I would caution you about "testing" her too much at this point. If she is real and sincere, it will cause her to end the relationship, but if she's a scammer she'll submit herself to your tests, and by passing the tests she proves she is a scammer! Ironic, isn't it? ;)

BUT here's my main thought... A lot of stuff in this story sounds legit... She's putting a LOT of consistent time and highly interactive communication. It's at least legit enough to go forward with a short meeting. I realize she can't take off a two-week period of time right away, but can she take a long weekend (Fri-Sat-Sun-Mon)?

If finances and getting time off work aren't that much of a challenge for you, this would seem like a no-lose deal. Being in the U.K. makes the long-weekend plan manageable as it appears to be about a 3 hour flight from London to Kiev. You leave on a Thursday after work, arrive in Ukraine that night, spend all day with her Fri-Sat-Sun-Mon, and fly back to London Monday evening and return to work Tuesday.

And for all the money thing... Like dating anywhere you should naturally expect to pay for all meals, entertainment, transport (not just on the first date), and a few little gifts (it is IMPORTANT to show up to EVERY date with a gift, no matter how small). That's just normal dating cost, not a scam.

Even if she takes you to expensive restaurants where you run up a bill over $100 USD it's not a scam. If that happens more than once you might want to be concerned about her character, but that's far short of a scam.

If you get there and she tells you she can't meet with you because her mother was just injured in a car crash and will die within a few days unless she gets expensive medicine (that you're invited to offer to pay), or some other high-drama thing like that, THEN WORRY that it's a scam!

But as I see it, a long weekend visit has almost no real risks for you. The ABSOLUTE worst case would be that you get there and she doesn't even show up. Then you would need to entertain yourself for a few days. If that happens and you can't figure out anything, contact me and I'll give you some pointers!

And on the upside, you get some real face-to-face time with her where you should be much more able to get a read on what's really happening and know whether you're wasting your time on her.

Comments for How elaborate do Ukraine scams get ?

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Thanks for the fast response
by: Bryan

I'll answer your questions as best I can.

The whole "you make me smile all day" stuff has only happened during the last couple of days, at the start she wasn't even looking for a relationship and just wanted a penpal really.

A short weekend isn't possible, she works everyday in her job from around 8am until around 10pm at a hotel and she lives in the hotel with the other staff and she won't be free until the season ends. For me this is fine though and I understand as I've had friends in UK go abroad and do this kind of seasonal work so know work like this is legit. But it means we can't meet for another few months.

If anything our conversations might be affecting her work because we're usually talking until 2am her time and she's only getting 5 or 6 hours sleep each day. The positive I can see from this is that if I am being scammed, the amount of time she's putting into me means she can't be scamming anyone else.

As for the money thing I have no issues with that when it comes to dates it's not really different to what I would in the UK when dating. And from what I've gathered from her she is not focused on money, understands its value and doesn't like wasting it so I doubt we will have any $100 bills, she was telling me that meals would be more like £10/£20 which is normal for me and that little gifts like flowers or postcards are perfectly fine for her as it's more about the gesture than the financial value.

Another thing I forgot to mention is that when we discussed meeting we talked about what we would do and meeting her friends was on the itinerary as well long walks in the park and along the river.

I really don't know, the more I talk to her the more I seem to be obsessed with hunting ghosts just to try and find anything that proves my doubts wrong, I know it's self destructive and I should have a little faith but it's my analytical nature to consider and research everything I can. That "wedding" photo I found has really thrown me back though and I know it's probably nothing but I can't be sure. One thing I will do though is keep you updated on the progress of it all to help you get a better picture of the situation and if you can see some red flags that I might have missed

[Bob's Answer:]

Good plan.

As I re-read your original post I see I neglected to address one thing: The wedding picture... One thing to keep in mind is that Russians/Ukrainians typically wear wedding rings on their RIGHT hand, not left.

My only additional suggestion is that you keep in mind the true nature of a scam. For our purposes the most useful/practical definition of "scam" is an attempt to trick you out of your money by means of fraud/pretense.

Follow the guidelines at Avoiding Russian Women Scams and 99% of that risk goes away.

Good luck and keep us posted!

by: Bryan

Ok so an update for you with some more information...

I was right on the ball of her being married, I confronted her about it but not in a way that made me look like I had been snooping. I simply just asked during one of our conversations if she had been married before, to which she wrote me a huge email explaining her situation and how she wanted to tell me but didn't really know how, in case I decided to stop communication with her.

She's in the process of getting a divorce right now and getting this guy out of her life and she wants to meet me in Ukraine during the summer when this problem is hopefully resolved as I told her I wasn't comfortable meeting her while she was still married which she was understanding about.

Also we have developed feelings for each other, it's difficult for me as I'm usually good with my emotions but I have fallen for her & she claims she has fallen for me too, we've added each other on a social media platform where I could see everything about her on there for the past 6 years, friends, pictures, family etc on reflection I know more about her than she does about me. However she has recently deleted that account because she wants to forget her past and made a new account with her maiden name and only me a few close friends and family on it, which does seem strange, but it's not like I haven't deleted an old account of mine in the past too so I cannot really judge especially when I don't even use my real name on social media!

We still spend pretty much all day talking via whatsapp and skype with video for about 2 or 3 hours a day too, so in the past month alone we've probably racked up about 120 hours of voice/video and around 300 hours of texting each other.

Now we're discussing meeting, she wants to meet in Kiev, she's not from Kiev though she's further West but explains that because of the trouble with her soon to be ex husband it may be difficult meeting in her home town as he may cause some problems and of course her friends are mainly his friends too and because she appears to a genuinely nice person she also doesn't want to hurt him and thinks if he found out about us meeting so soon after divorce it could break him as he's mentioned killing himself in the past amongst other things to try & manipulate her. I've read the information you should meet in her home city and this does cause me some concern but I can understand her situation too, it's alot like how you describe your meeting of Irina on your "Avoiding Russian scams" page, but of course there are some differences and she has mentioned going out for drinks with one of her close friends who lives in Kiev.

We've planned out a nice trip visiting all the free romantic sights of Kiev and discussed cooking for each other instead of going out for meals so again it doesn't look like a scam.

I still have my doubts though, maybe it's my pessimistic nature but they're there, thanks to some things I'm just not sure about and some things which don't make sense in my world (but could be perfectly normal in Ukraine) and I'm trying to hold them back so not to ruin what could potentially be a very good thing.

So I'm basically just looking for some advice or assurance on what you think I should do.

Yes there's no money scam yet, but I've read some scammers can work on a mark for months before asking for money, and I've also read about marriage scammers who just want you for a Visa. She's been what seems to be completely honest with me all the way through, I really should have no reason to doubt her but I guess I'm afraid of getting hurt, I haven't told anyone about her yet for these reasons either, but it's really no way to live life being in fear.

[I'll put my reply in a separate comment - Bob]

Reply to Bryan's "Update" comment
by: Bob

Based on everything you've presented here (and in previous posts) about this situation I don't see anything that would keep me from proceeding. Of course it COULD be a scam, and it could be a more long-term big scam or a visa scam, etc., but it sounds like her story rings true...

To me the thing that really stands out is the time you've both invested. If it is something other than it seems on the surface it's pretty elaborate. But you're the one with all the direct communication... your gut should really have enough to go on.

And as for her not wanting to meet in her own city due to the awkwardness of the recent divorce (as I understand the explanation). Obviously I can't know that this is her REAL reason for not wanting to meet in her own city.

With all your time speaking with her does her story about the awkward ex sound true? Any inconsistencies?

I ask because if I was just hearing a story that involved meeting online, but then the girl didn't want to meet in her own city because of this big drama about her ex and her divorce, and how her home city was just too awkward, etc., it would sound a little "out there".

But with 100+ hours of direct communication it seems like if the story wasn't true you would pick up on it.

Maybe some scammers work harder before the money hit, but I would be very surprised if this happened here.

If I were in your shoes I would still proceed while keeping in mind the "avoiding scams" page I previously referenced. If she'll be flying to Kiev I would buy the plane ticket instead of sending money. You can book domestic flights within Ukraine at Kiy Avia.

You already have that little suspicion in your mind, so I'm sure that if one day - even if while you're there together with her - she comes up with a massive emergency need for money (mom in serious car accident, uncle had heart attack and needs expensive medicine or he'll die, etc.) you'll definitely know it's a scam.

But if you follow all that advice about "Follow the Money" (Avoiding Scams page), you should be fine.

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