Looks like a scam, feels like a scam, BUT.....
(East Sussex, UK)
I was contacted by a 34 year-old Russian woman through a reputable dating site. I am 60 (First hint of a scam!)
I sent a brief reply. She responded by giving me her personal email address (an '@aol.com' address).
I sent a very brief 'Hello, how are you?' kind of email to her.
She replied, and attached several photos of herself and friends 'out and about'. They were taken at places like a bowling alley, park, at home etc. There were no studio shots. She told me that she worked as the assistant manager in a certain hotel in Saratov. I checked online and the hotel is represented on all major booking sites. She also gave me a mobile phone number.
In her next email, she sent a series of photos of herself in the hotel. She was wearing the hotel uniform with her name badge and ID pass around her neck. The photos were taken at different locations within the hotel and were all imprinted with the date. The hotel has a very distinct logo and this logo was in the background of several photos. In one photo, she held a sheet of paper with my name on it and the date (now I'm thinking this isn't a scam!!). In the email she said she had the next day off and was going to visit her father and grandmother who lived in the country some distance away.
In her next email, she sent several photos of her and her family, all imprinted with the date (I'm becoming more convinced this isn't a scam!!).
Several emails have been exchanged, all of which contained up to a dozen photos of her in very everyday situations - holiday snaps, at a New Year's Eve party with her friends etc., etc.
Unfortunately, whilst the photos imply she is 'above board', the emails never seem to ring quite true. She occasionally addresses questions I ask but not often (but, having said that, my experience of women is that none of them ever seem to continue a thread in an email. This is true of even my female friends and it irritates me beyond words!!).
She is constantly telling me how special I am, that she wants to make a life with me, I am different to other men, her family think I'm wonderful and all the usual stuff. At this point I should also say I have only sent her two photos of myself, one of which she has blown up to about 2 feet by 1 foot and put on her bedroom wall!! I have also told her I have very simple tastes and a job which pays very badly. She says she doesn't care and when she comes to see me we won't need fancy restaurants anyway because she's a great cook!! "When I visit you, all I want is to make you nice breakfast before your day, spend time in the park and the beach, cook you great supper and sleep with you at night. I know from letters you are good man and this is all I want." She says she can get time off work for 4 weeks at the beginning of September and wants to come to the UK to stay with me. Of course, if I'm asked, I won't send any money. And even if this is a scam I'm not that bothered. I've enjoyed exchanging emails with her and I've got some great photos of a naturally attractive young lady!!! I'm very confused (it's the photos of her at work that puzzle me most). Have you come across this kind of situation before?
I have definitely come across situations where a girl's pictures are real but she's a scammer! See typical AnastasiaWeb/AnastasiaDate scam for an example.
I think you're thinking of "scam" too narrowly... that if the girl writing you is the girl in the pictures, then it's not a scam. It's just not the classic high-volume email scam where they use stolen pictures.
The fact that this girl is sending authentic pictures of herself really doesn't prove much at all, and frankly, all the date/time stamps prove nothing either - pictures can be edited. But even if these date/time stamps are automatically inserted by the camera and aren't edited, it still doesn't really prove much.
Obviously I can't really KNOW for sure that your girl is a Russian scammer, but I see evidence in your story that lights up a few flashing warning lights:
1) The lack of "interaction" in the emails that you describe. When you're not yet 100% sure of someone being a scam, you can find plausible explanations, as you mention that this is how your interactions with most women go... that they can't continue a thread. But there's another possible explanation: Her letters are mostly pre-written and recycled, and it's too labor-intensive to actually READ your whole message and interact with it.
2) She goes too far out of her way to actually prove she is "real", especially the picture of her holding a piece of paper with your name on it. This actually impacts my impression OPPOSITE from how you take it... To me it leans me MORE toward believing it was a scam. I've been engaged to a Russian woman before, and we spoke on Skype video calls nearly daily, and I never once received a picture from her holding up a piece of paper with my name on it. WHY would she do that? Scammers are mostly the ones who jump through hoops to prove their authenticity. If I asked my fiancee at the time to make a picture holding a piece of paper with my name on it I would have never heard from her again (at least nothing I'd WANT to hear :-)
3) She sounds too "in love" for someone who has never met you.
4) She has only seen two pictures of you, and has heard and understood that you have a "bad paying job", and yet she has poster-sized pictures of you on her bedroom wall... This is the biggest indicator of all that something here isn't as it seems! Not all Russian women are materialistic money hounds, but when a very attractive 34 woman is this "in love" with a badly-paid 60 year old man and just claims to have all these simple tastes and doesn't care at all about your income...
Actually, the fact that she's 34 and you're 60 isn't at all a red flag for me... the age difference is a little much, but I've seen that before. I'm 51 and get interest from many 25-35 year old women. It's all the other stuff that sets off my warning lights.
5) She wants to come visit you. HOW? Will she pay expenses to get there? Can you afford her travel and visa costs? Can she even get a visa? Russian/Ukrainian are not given such easy access to most Western countries - especially U.S. and U.K.
I really don't know what the scam here could be. Maybe she'll be hitting you up for travel and visa money. Or maybe you'll soon get the good old "My grandmother is sick and needs expensive medicine and I don't know who to turn to other than you, my lovely man...". Maybe she wants U.K. citizenship.
So those are my thoughts... she may be completely authentic. Only you can decide.
But if your time investment here is all you stand to lose, and as long as you are solid on the NO MONEY rule, what do you have to lose?