Is she for real?
I have been writing a Russian woman for a little over a month now. We write every day. She writes from work as she doesn't have the internet or Skype at home. Now she wants to come over here to visit based on her 'serious intentions' towards me, which to be fair she has repeatedly said to me.
I thought that this would be the crunch moment and she would be asking for travel money and confirm my suspicions, but instead she said that she could not afford to come over as soon as she would like to because she needs to save up for the trip first!!!!
She has looked into the sort of documents she needs to be able to travel here, and told me how much they would cost, and has not asked for any financial help from me.
She tells me that she misses me and that she has now fallen in love with me, and that I am the man that she has been searching for all her life.
I asked why she hadn't asked me for financial help with the cost and her reply was 'I have pride, I would not feel comfortable in asking you for financial help'.
As of today she has still not asked me to send her any money and we have spoken about the cost of her coming to the UK in several e-mails.
She has sent a lot of pictures of herself and family, and requested quite a few from me too, she had said that she will ring me on the phone soon to talk because she is so serious about us, and in the last few days she has left me a voicemail at work saying that she misses me and her English is quite good.
I have asked for her address and found it on Google Earth, I have asked for her cell number and she has sent it to me, and then last night she rang me on my mobile from her home phone.
She tells me that she now loves me and misses me so much because she is bored of her "lonely life" now that her daughter has gone to medical school. My gut feeling is that I think I can trust her, I hope she is as serious about us as she is making out and not just looking for a way into the UK??
I'm 49 and she is 40.
I can see why your gut would tell you that you can trust her. She says a lot of the right things. For most "Is this a scam?" questions I receive the answer is REALLY simple: Yes, it's a scam. Yours is not so clear cut.
This COULD be real. But I see a few fishy things...
1) The documents and cost... I live in the U.S. and I know that visas to the U.S. are not given to very many Russian/Ukrainian women. I've heard that the U.K. is pretty strict too. So my question would be "How can these 'documents' be so easy to get?" If she were telling me this (given the U.S. visa policy), I'd see red flags everywhere unless she had some seriously convincing explanations.
I recently looked into this. U.S. Immigration (the visa people) actually makes the assumption that a tourist visa applicant INTENDS TO STAY, so unless the applicant can convince immigration that they have real stakes in their home country that ensure their return (property, career, family, etc.), the visa is denied.
I have heard that there are services in Russia/Ukraine that can obtain a U.S. visa by way of forging many documents essentially manufacturing the kind of identity that would normally be granted a visa.
This typically costs $2000, I'm told, but is refundable if the visa is not granted.
2) She has fallen in love with you and misses you... This is a little suspicious to me. "Misses you" maybe... "Fallen in love" after just written correspondence? Ask yourself really honestly... Do the kinds of things that happen in your email exchanges really make this seem like a reasonable possibility?
It IS possible... If she's 40, it may very well be the case that she wants to escape her "lonely life" and that you are a good opportunity (in a sincere way). But the wording is a bit concerning to me.
3) You are right in recognizing that she may just be a very clever Russian scammer. This whole "I want to come see you because I'm so serious but I need to wait till I can save up money for the trip" thing - although seemingly very sincere on the outer surface - doesn't feel quite right to me. Don't you feel a little guilty? I think you're supposed to :-)
The far and away best approach to a first meeting in a context like this is for you to visit her city. That removes a lot of scam potential, especially if you can plan such a visit in a way that removes any potential for profit for her. In other words, you arrange your own apartment or hotel, your own transportation to/from airport/train station//etc. You've already mentioned that her English is good enough, so there wouldn't be the good old translator scam.
Given all that I see two very realistic ways to pursue this relationship without much scam risk.
One option would be to just let it play out. I think this option is better if you're leaning to the side of skepticism.
Here's how it goes...
She's already offered to come visit you at her own expense. What do you have to lose by letting her do just that (as long as you send no money to help)? (you should NOT NOT NOT NOT NOT send money to help :-)
If you REALLY feel guilty, and absolutely insist on helping, I would only offer to reimburse her after she arrives, but NOT send money in advance. And I would not even make the offer in advance. Wait till she arrives and expecting no reimbursement at all. Then say "Look, I know this was an expensive trip for you, so I really insist on covering the costs..."
And I can't think of any costs for her other than airfare and visa application fees. If that comes to more than $1000 USD total I'd be shocked (unless she's doing that fraudulent documents program for $2000, but I wouldn't agree to pay for that).
Just tell her that you are eager to see her too because you are also serious about your relationship with her, but you don't want to wait so long, so you would like to visit her in her city. Then plan a trip!
If you're not very skeptical Option Two is the better option.
You didn't mention her city, but if it's west of the Ural Mountains this is a no-brainer. You European guys don't appreciate the advantage in this arena of living on the OTHER side of the Atlantic!
We Americans need to take off a week of work and spend $1500 on round-trip airfare. You can travel to Moscow, Saint Petersburg, or Kiev as easily as we (in Dallas Texas) can travel to California, Florida, or New York... $500 round-trip airfare and a 3.5 hour flight.
You could take off work on Friday and Monday, fly out on Thursday night, arrive Thursday night, and be ready for a full day together Friday, Saturday, and Sunday. You can spend Monday morning together, and in the afternoon head to hotel to pack, then to the airport, arrive home Monday evening, go to work Tuesday morning.
If she lives in Moscow or Saint Petersburg, for example, and your gut still says you can trust her after reading my concerns, then gosh, then the answer is very simple... VISIT HER!
It removes nearly all risk of being scammed.
Worst case: She is a fraud, but you got to see Moscow, St Pete, or Kiev for $1000 USD. There are worse things that could happen to a guy.
Best case: The meeting leaves you with no suspicions whatsoever and you've met your soul-mate.
Anyway, I hope that helps!
Paul's Follow-Up Question:
Thanks for the reply Bob.
Your site is very informative and has helped me stay on an even keel because I have not met this woman. But she does seem to fit most of what you say a good Russian woman should be like.
In a recent e-mail, Ekaterina has listed the following documents that she would need to travel to the UK. She said:
Now I have 350 pounds. I calculated the cost of the entire trip, and now I write to you. 1 - the total value of the documents about 500 pounds; 2 - ticket of 300 and above, 3 - Travel Check in the amount of 500 pounds. (but that money will not be spent. I only need to provide Travel Check the quality of evidence in my ability to pay.
- Visa 29 pounds
- Consular fees 119 pound
- Passport 57 pound (period of 10 years)
- Insurance policy 257 pound
- For services agency 38 pound.
She has been to a local tour agency to see how much it would be to travel to the uk, and took 3 days to come back with these figures rather than a few hours like previous scammers.
She is now talking about getting credit from a bank to come over here, because she does not like being apart, and is asking my advice,
I have tried to ring Katy on her cell, but I can not get through, leave a voicemail or send her a text.
Katy thinks that her phone is not set up to receive international calls, but this doesn't sound right regarding text messages.
I have asked if she can look into checking if she needs to activate something, but this doesn't seem quite right to me.
You said in a direct email to me that you brought up the possibility of you visiting her in Russia instead of her visiting you in the U.K., and that she thought it could be a good idea. Why then still all the investigation of the costs of her visiting you? Or did she do the research first then you mentioned visiting her in Russia?
In any case, your offer to travel to see her in Russia and her acknowledgment that it is a good idea renders the cost factor here irrelevant. With that particular exchange you should be off the hook for any of her financial burdens.
But as for the costs, it sounds a little high, but I don't really know U.K. immigration/visa policy.
As for her cell phone not being set up to receive international calls, you're right to question it. I've called probably 100 different Russian/Ukrainian cell phones and have NEVER - not even once - had one of them unable to receive international calls because a phone was not set up for it. Nor have I even ever heard of such a thing.
Hope that helps!