Russian Dating Scam: Marriage Agency Scams
One very common Russian dating scam is the 'marriage agency scam' where young, attractive, "real" girls will write to you through letter services, and will be very happy to stay in touch for years waiting for you to be able to visit them.
And they ARE "real", unlike women perpetrating Email Scams
. In a Russian dating scam the girl you're writing really does exist, and almost surely her name, age, location, and pictures are all accurate. The fraud is in her intentions.
The agency-based Russian dating scam nearly always starts with "Letter Services" (a.k.a. "letter forwarding", "email forwarding", "express mail", etc., but I will usually just call them "pay-per-letter" or "letter services"). Different agencies and networks have their own brand name for this service, but basically the way "letter services" work is that you go to the girl's profile on their website, click the "Send Me a Message" button (labeling will differ from site to site), paste your message into a text box, and click "Send". Somewhere in this chain of events you'll be promted to pay. The agency gets the message, translates it if necessary, and emails it to the girl (or prints it and she picks it up, or they read it to her by phone, etc.)
The options vary in this kind of Russian dating scam... sometimes you pay one flat price which includes translation and the girl's reply and its translation to English, sometimes you pay extra for each of these. Sometimes you pay for each letter, sometimes you must pre-pay into a balance, then each time you send a letter or gift the charge is subtracted from the balance.
But there's something to this that you don't see...
There are truly honest agencies that would never commit letter fraud, but they are RARE. As narrow as this may seem, if an agency offers pay-per-letter services and they are not reviewed positively here on this site at Russian Dating Sites Reviewed
, I would immediately suspect that they engage in letter fraud.
The pitch made by the agencies for using this kind of service is that (1) paper mail takes three weeks to reach it's intended recipient, (2) many women in Russia/Ukraine do not have reliable internet access, and (3) many women there do not read and write adequate English for meaningful communication to take place.
But the real reason they want you to use these services is that they are probably the easiest place to implement a Russian dating scam. Letter forwarding is one of the biggest moneymakers of crooked (i.e. MOST) agencies.
So if the girl is "real" and the agency is real, then where is the fraud? Glad you asked. There are a number of possible scenarios...
In this Russian dating scam sometimes the woman with whom you think you are corresponding has been married for 4 years. She may have been in the agency a long time ago, but if she was popular, a crooked agency will just leave her profile on the site and correspond with men on her behalf.
Sometimes some really attractive women on a crooked site are real, but if you write them and they aren't interested in writing you, the agency just takes over and writes you on her behalf without her knowledge.
Or, sometimes it is slightly less of a full-out provable Russian dating scam... the girl exists, she is single and available, and she is writing you, BUT it goes through the agency before it reaches the girl. Well, what do you think happens when you ask the girl in your letter "Hi Olga, do you have an email address where I can send some pictures?" Do you think that question makes it into the letter Olga receives? No way... the agency doesn't want you communicating directly with the woman... they would lose out on the revenue!
Sometimes this Russian dating scam is not TECHNICALLY a scam... the woman you are writing exists, she is receiving your letters and her letters to you are real, but the agency actually has a policy prohibiting the exchange of contact information. Or, they may allow you to exchange direct contact information through the forwarded letter service, but you would be surprised how many times the girl in such a case overlooks your request for her direct phone number or email address!
And, after maybe 3-4 letters where you repeat the request every time, she'll get around to answering, "I did receive your question about my contact details, but I'm not comfortable sharing that with you yet..." (at least not until after you've spent another $300 in letters and gifts!). www.khersongirls.com
runs this Russian dating scam (see Kherson Girls - Review
). Supposedly it is for the girl's privacy and security, but what girl serious about finding a future husband would not be willing to give him at least her personal email address and cell phone number? Where is the loss of security and privacy in that? You can't physically locate someone via email address or cell phone number. The real reason for this policy is REVENUE!
But probably the most common Russian dating scam perpetrated by marriage agencies is where the girl you are writing using the letter services is real, her pictures, name, age, and location are accurate, but SHE WORKS IN A PARTNERSHIP WITH THE AGENCY where the agency shares the revenue from the pay-per-letter, gift, and tour revenue.
She may be married, or live with a boyfriend, and only writes for the money. It's like a job. And the longer she can keep you writing, the more she earns. But even if she is single and available, she's probably not writing you because she's serious about you, but rather because she earns a profit from it.
Most agencies that offer pay-per-letter services also offer gift services, which is often another common Russian dating scam. Like letters, gifts sent from the U.S. to Russia/Ukraine are expensive to ship, take forever to get there, and often fail to reach their intended recipient. But you can just pay the agency to deliver a gift to the girl of your choice. And to help give you confidence that the girl to whom you are sending the gifts and letters is "real" and is receiving your gifts, agencies often offer the service of taking a picture of the girl receiving your gift and emailing you the picture. Sometimes they charge for this additional service, sometimes it's included.
Well, before you start sending Olga roses through her agency just to be sure this angel is real, you should know that this is often a Russian dating scam. Here's how it works...
If "Olga" is in partnership with the agency, when you send her flowers, they just look on their computer for pictures of Olga receiving flowers in the past and send you that picture along with her "Thank you" comment.
If they don't have a picture of Olga receiving exactly the flowers or gift that you're sending, they just pay a florist or gift shop a few dollars and them $5.00 USD to rent the flowers or gift for 5 minutes while they take pictures of Olga with the flowers or gift.
You spent $70 for the gift, $20 for delivery, and $10 for the pictures. The agency gave $5 to the flower shop, $40 to the girl, and kept $55 for themselves. Pretty slick, eh?
But your girl isn't limited to earning a profit only from the letter-fraud and gift revenue.
During these exchanges she may start to push for you to visit her because, after all, you can't really be sure about each other till you meet face to face, right? But she'll be pushing for you to visit USING THE SERVICES OF HER AGENCY. And, if you make that visit, they'll arrange your ground transport (airport shuttle, between-city-transport if her city has no airport, etc.), apartment, interpreters, taxis, etc. And if you do this, the girl gets a little cut of everything you pay the agency for all of those services.
Since all these services are physical, in-person services that you would need to use even if you just visited her city without her agency's help, you might wonder how it could be a Russian dating scam. Simple: It's usually in her intentions. You wouldn't be making that trip if you didn't believe she was sincere and serious about you. But since sure lured you to visit her city on that pretense just so that she could earn a fairly small commission on the services you'd by, THAT'S the Russian dating scam.
You might wonder how a girl living with a boyfriend or husband could pull this off. Well, one reader of my site wrote a very thorough exposition of his own experience with a textbook marriage agency scam at My Experience With Anastasia Date
. It is a very typical example of a Russian dating scam run by a Russian marriage agency. I strongly urge you to read the whole thing very carefully!
In a nutshell, the girl won't spend NEARLY the amount of time with you that you expect. She'll end up having many urgent work needs, or may need to leave dates early to take care of a sick parent or child, etc., and after a whole week in her city you end up with only two fairly short dates.
And all of those work crises and parent/child care needs... in reality she just went back home to her normal life, whether it was going out to clubs with her single friends or back home to her husband/boyfriend/child(ren) for dinner and family time, etc.
FORTUNATELY there is a way around this common Russian dating scam.
But first let me tell you about the best way to avoid marriage agency scams... NEVER NEVER NEVER use pay-per-letter services or gift services! Do that and 99% of the rest of the problems go away on their own (at least regarding marriage agency scams). But for a more thorough discussion on how to avoid nearly any Russian dating scam, I recommend thoroughly reading Avoiding Russian Women Scams
But if you're already hooked on a girl with whom you've been corresponding via pay-per-letter services and she has successfully persuaded you to visit, and if you're immune to the reasoning of my site and are bent on following through, then here's what you can do to ensure you don't get scammed further (since the pay-per-letter already counts as a scam) AND that your trip isn't a complete bust even if she does turn out to be a scam...
Find an HONEST local agency or guide in her town that is NOT the one she's using. If she's in Kiev, Poltava, Kharkov, or Dnepropetrovsk (all Ukraine) I can point you in the right direction. Otherwise
contact me and I'll find a good agency or guide for you. In most cases this local agency is your bail-out. They can provide all the services as the agency your girl uses... Transportation, lodging, interpreters, guidance, advice, etc. BUT, they don't know your girl and won't be sharing any commissions with her for luring you to town.
[NOTE: "they don't know your girl" may not be a sure thing... if you see your girl in their database too, pick a different agency!]
Let your girl know that you are eager to meet her in her city sometime in late April (for example, fill in your own date range here) and ask if that works for her. If not, suggest a different time.
Once you've nailed down a time frame, let her know that you have done a little research and will be arranging all of your own accommodations (instead of having her agency handle your accommodations). By doing this, you effectively take money off the table. You remove her ability to make any financial gain from your visit.
And this is CRITICAL. Think about it... Even if you were traveling there for tourism or business, you still need to pay for airfare, ground transport, lodging, possibly interpreters and/or guides, etc. And the price that a scam agency charges for these services may even be comparable to what you may find on the open market. So the cost of the accommodations and services isn't the scam.
The scam is in HER INTENTIONS. She's only PRETENDING to have an interest in you for the purpose of financial gain. Take that possibility of financial gain out of the picture and you'll find out if her intentions are sincere.
Once you remove the possibility of financial gain, all she has to gain from your visit are nice dates, dinners, entertainment, and time with "her man". If she's serious and sincere, that's all she should expect anyway. She should come back with a response like "Great! I can't wait to see you my dear, and I must say that I'm impressed with your independence in arranging all your own acommodations!" If her response is more like like "But John, I'm only comfortable working with my own agency...", you should worry that she is involved in a Russian dating scam.
IF she fails the "declaration test" (above, where you declare intentions to visit her city without the help of her agency), you should most definitely NOT follow through with that trip.
But if she's OK with your plan, then book your accommodations through that local agency. And I would recommend explaining to them your situation... that you're there to see another girl and are only using them mostly for their lodging and other support services, BUT that if things with the girl don't work out you would also like to use their introduction services too.
You should search their online database of their female clients. Make a list of the ones that might interest you if you weren't otherwise distracted. Don't do anything with this list for now. In most cases you will also want to write a short general intro letter and collect a few pictures of yourself.
Although not 100% applicable, you can find good advice on this subject (intro letter, pictures) at How To Write An Effective Online Profile.
Now you are all set! If you arrive and your girl is all you had hoped, and she is actually spending time with you without all the expected excuses for leaving early or canceling, and if you have no other cause for concern, GREAT!
But, if in the unfortunately very likely case that she either balked at your very suggestion that you handle your own accommodations without her agency's help, or if she ends up being very flakey about scheduling time with you, RUN to your agency and present them your "list", intro letter, and pictures, and instruct them to fill up your schedule! Depending on the city, chances are good you can have a very nice date that very first night that you request that the agency start filling up your schedule.
It's not the best way to approach meeting new women, in my opinion, but it does salvage the trip.
The importance of getting money out of the picture
The most unfortunate part of this on-the-ground part of the Russian dating scam is that the cost of most of the services and accommodations you'll get may be priced at "market value". In other words, if you were just traveling to that city for other purposes, you'd probably pay similar prices for ground transport, lodging, guides, interpreters (if needed), etc. And that's easy enough to verify. But then there's the additional cost of the flight there, and the lost income from time off work (or the lost vacation days). So basically, everything that's part of this "scam" is pretty much the same price as if it were real.
That's why I start out saying "The fraud is in her intentions." If her intentions were sincere, the price you were paying for the flights, hotels/apartments, interpreters, etc., would be worth it.
THAT'S WHY it is so critical to make it very clear to "your girl" before your trip that there's very little opportunity for her to profit financially from your visit. If you follow the advice above under The Backup-Plan
you can gently and implicitly convey that message (you should definitely not tell her this explicitly!). This way you can save yourself all that airfare, vacation time, and other expense for a better prospect later.
Now you are nearly completely insulated from the marriage agency variety of Russian dating scam!