Looks like a scam, feels like a scam, BUT.....(Part 2)
(East Sussex, UK)
Sorry, it's me again. I don't want you to waste time in replying to this follow-up to my previous post, but I wanted to update your site as various 'stages' of my rather weird experience developed, in case it might be of some use to any readers who have a similar experience in the future.
I received another email today (she writes to me every day) and I think the best thing is if I show you extracts of what she said:-
"Your letter, as always cheers me up, the smile does not descend from mine face...
Steve I wanted to ask you why you ask me such silly questions?? Please do not take offense at my words.
But your questions really silly. Why you think, what for me matters, the size of your purse??
To me all the same how much money you have. And expensive gifts are not necessary to me. Your care and that you always were with me is all I want. I do not want to be lonely any more...You tell me in previous email you were married for 25 years when your wife died (I remembered). This is biggest thing that attracts me - the loyalty. I have been hurt too many times. I want just that one man loves me. Marriage not necessary - just love.
I already have my international passport... I made out it, for a trip to Ukraine! It very much reduces time, for official registration of papers...
I already have issued today the contract, with travel agency "Roza Vetrov"... Good agency... I liked services...In travel agency to me have told that I have every chance to receive the visa... Fine news!!!!!
The travel agent has told that it will cost approximately 17500 rubles for visa, travel. These are 437 euros.... I was delighted, because expected to hear the sum more...
Tomorrow I will find this money and I will pay all expenses in travel agency..."
End of extract.
Also, she phoned me this evening. This is the first time we have spoken (I invested a few pounds in a pay-as-you-go phone because I'd heard there are scams which involve milking your mobile phone contract account. I gave her this number a few days ago). When I answered the call, I asked who it was. She wouldn't say until I said her name and then she confirmed it was her. She then said something to the effect, "I'm so relieved. I needed you to say my name to be sure you hadn't given me a false number."
I'm sure it's usual with many scammers, but even so I was surprised by how fluent her spoken English was. She had told me in an email that she has a degree in Tourism and International Relations and that the study of English was a core module. She asked if, when she visited, she would stay with me or in a hotel. I said I thought it best if initially she stayed in a hotel and if we 'clicked' she could then stay with me. I said a friend was the manager of a nice, small hotel ten minutes from my house and I would gladly arrange for her to stay there; and as she was paying all her travel costs, I would be happy to pay for the hotel for one week (she proposes to visit for four weeks). She thought this was a good idea, but then completely floored me by saying, "but I do not expect you to pay for the hotel. Let me know the cost and I will arrange to pay the hotel direct."
The whole situation is weird because on the one hand, the way she writes about what she feels for me is strange given she doesn't know me, yet it seems that she has no intention of trying to extract money from me either (although I realize there's still time!!!). She also says she's not concerned about getting married and will pay her own way during her visit.
The travel and visa costs she quotes are about right, the time to get the visa is about right if there are no problems, and what she has told me she needs to get the visa is spot on (Letter from her employer - which she has now got, bank statements - not a problem, passport - which she says she already has).
Like I said, no response necessary, I just thought it was an interesting situation!!
I don't mind at all adding a few thoughts...
FIRST AND FOREMOST... I don't REALLY KNOW what's happening here, and I'd hate to see you blow something that IS REAL just because my gut told me it was a scam.
Now, the reason I say that is that even I was a little moved by her "You tell me in previous email you were married for 25 years when your wife died (I remembered). This is biggest thing that attracts me - the loyalty. I have been hurt too many times. I want just that one man loves me."
I really don't want to add confusion, but the whole widower thing CAN be a big draw! I know when I read women's profiles whose husbands died I'm immediately much more moved. And I'm SURE women are much more swayed by things like this.
And, it IS interesting that she actually DECLINES your offer of financial help with the hotel.
Fortunately for you, you can now have the best of both worlds... If she IS REAL, shows up, pays her own expenses, and everything in person seem upright and sincere, you win. On the other hand, if sometime between now and then she shows her unmistakable scamming colors, you lose nothing.
But, as you say, you realize there's still time...
Scammers are smart, they KNOW their victims are on the lookout for the money requests/etc., and they EVOLVE in their strategies, and this whole "I want to come see you, and I'll do it at my own expense" is more and more common.
I actually have experienced this before. Unlike your case, I was 1000% sure it was a scam from her first letter, but I played along like I was believing the story... She had a similar story with a few twists, but the bottom line is that she had all her visas arranged and could travel to the U.S. to work, and she could pick any city she wished, so she would just pick my city. In my case, I actually told her several different city names in different emails and she never noticed the discrepancy!
Supposedly her mother had saved money for a whole year that would pay for all the visas and travel. The visas had supposedly been paid for, but she needed to get the remaining money for the airfare. Her mom was going to wire her the money to a Moneygram-type place in the Moscow airport so that she could pay for the airfare.
THEN, it came... "OH NO, it turns out that my mother could not get to the bank in time! Bob, I want to see you so badly. My mother has the money, and she can wire it tomorrow because the banks are closed until then. Can you wire me the money, and the minute I arrive my mom can wire the money directly to you?...."
I said, "ABSOLUTELY, how much do you need?" She replied with some number (around $2000) and I replied "Are you sure that'll be enough? I can send more? I'll send $3000 just in case you have some unexpected expenses..."
She stopped writing me after that! She clearly saw that I wasn't fooled, and that the whole money-extraction program was just a little too easy :-)
For you, unfortunately you're not 1000% sure she's a scam, so just go with it. Seriously, just pretend everything is as it seems. Write her as though you're eager to see her and are looking forward to her arrival. DON'T talk about money with her. If she actually shows up, you win (probably).
But if she pulls the "stranded girl at the airport" trick like the one I just described (unfortunately I suspect this will be the outcome), you'll immediately know what's happening, and you'll be prepared.
And frankly, if I were in your shoes and got the call claiming that she's stuck at the airport and needs money before boarding the plane, I'd have my little revenge by AGREEING to send money! Obviously I wouldn't REALLY send money, but I'd tell her that I would send cash through Western Union/MoneyGram, but then I'd send her a FAKE claim number!
That would send her scamming little ass to the MoneyGram/Western Union outlet only to find out that SHE was the victim now! (just use any random 8-10 digits, like "1156981205")
Anyway, hopefully this helps. Keep us posted!
P.S. Good plan on making a separate post. When you have further questions/updates, just do that again, and add "Part 3". I really need to restructure my posting/answering process!