Russian Scammers: Email Scams
Email scams are probably the most prevalent method of Russian scammers. An email scam is simply a case where some volume operation (could be a man or a woman, and may be in Russia, Ukraine, Nigeria, or New Jersey) contacts you by email, engages you in communication, and eventually attempts to bait you into sending money.
Russian scammers start the scam in various ways
Of course there are variations. Sometimes you contact them - possibly unknowingly. Other times they contact you out of the blue via direct email.
Often they will post very appealing profiles on Match.com, POF.com, or a Russian dating site like UkraineDate.com or RussianCupid.com and receive many thousands of responses. They just put all the email addresses they can collect through this method into a database for later use. And the "Russian woman" who writes you later won't usually be the pictures on this match.com profile. The picture in the profile was just the bait used by Russian scammers.
After harvesting your email address like this (or any one of many other methods), Russian scammers start on their email sequence.
Or instead of the "database method", sometimes they just put their email address in disguised form ("elena12321 at ya hoo com") in their profile on a site like Match.com. ALL girls on Match claiming to be from Russia/Ukraine who post a disguised email address like this are Russian scammers.
Another approach Russian scammers often use is to post their profiles on Direct-Connection Russian dating sites where there is little or no screening. This can be a little harder to detect because they do actually interact through the site until they can get you engaged in a direct email communication.
Russian scammers post pictures and profiles of beautiful Russian women. They may have downloaded the pictures of some Russian actress or model who you would not recognize, or they may have downloaded the pictures from a real girl's profile on another site. Or, in some cases, the girl writing you actually posts her own pictures.
By the way, you may notice some girls on multiple sites with matching pictures and descriptions. Well, they may all be real, they may all be fake, or there may be some real and some fake. So a real girl may have posted her profile, and a Russian scammer thought it looked good, so he/she copied the pics and description and posted it on another site.
Russian scammers may contact you first or you may write them first. She may continue the dialog immediately after you exchange contact information, OR you may never see another message from her, but days, weeks, or months later you will start getting very generic emails from various Russian women you've never seen claiming they saw your profile at a dating agency and want to get to know you.
But all scam routes end with the same general pattern
But however it is that the dialog starts, the direct/email scam is nearly always done through "free media" (email, Skype, and/or some other instant messaging tool), not through "Pay-Per-Letter" services (more on that kind of scam at Agency Scams
). And ALWAYS the pattern is the same...
She will sound like she's more and more in love with you with each passing email. You are her special man, and she's stopped writing all other men from the site, told her family and friends all about you, etc., etc., etc.
And then the PUNCH LINE: SEND MONEY!
Then at some point Russian scammers are going to hit you with some sort of urgent, heart-tugging plea for money... "My grandmother has taken ill and will die if we don't get her expensive medicine.... I don't know who else I can turn to...". OR, "I'm very sorry John, but the place I use to send you my emails requires me to pre-pay for the next 6 months and I haven't the money to be able to afford this...", OR THE OLDIE-BUT-GOODIE, "My dear, I feel so close to you and want to see you very much. I have a friend in the travel agency who can get a tourist visa for me to visit you, but I need $400 for the visa and $1500 for the airfare. Can you send me the money by Western Union?..."
Russian scammers' tricks to scramble your scam radar
BUT BE AWARE OF A NEW TREND AMONG RUSSIAN SCAMMERS: It is becoming increasingly popular for Russian scammers to disarm your suspicions by talking about plans to come see you in your country, but INSIST on covering all their own expenses for the visit, even if you offer. You can't help but think "Gosh, how could this be a scam if she is paying for the trip?" Simple answer: Just wait... it's coming! Sometime, usually immediately prior to her trip to come see you, she will run into some unavoidable cash flow crisis.
Or, another similar recent favorite is for Russian scammers to claim that they ALREADY have their visa and will be coming to your country and that they just need to choose the city... So since you are such the perfect man for her and she wants to be with you, she will obviously choose your city. Just tell her the name of the airport.
From there the plot almost always goes something like this... She has a big payment coming from her last paycheck at work, or mom/dad/grandmother/etc is going to give her the money for the trip, etc. It's half their life savings, you see, but they want their angel to be happy, and they know that she loves you and wants to be with you, so they will part with half their life savings... No cost to you... what a deal!
The trip is all arranged. On her way to the airport she just needs to go to her workplace to collect the paycheck or to the bank to retrieve wired funds from mom/dad/grandmother/etc to pay for her visa, flight, etc., and wouldn't you know it, SWEETIE HAD A CASH-FLOW CRISIS. The paycheck wasn't there, mom/dad/grandmother/etc didn't wire the funds in time, etc. BUT, if you could wire her the money she will certainly repay you as soon as the problem is resolved... shoot, even by the time she lands in your country mom/dad/grandmother/etc will have already wired the funds directly to you to repay.
Russian scammers are always coming up with new, creative, convincing twists to this basic story... Like when you offer to buy her flight tickets for her she'll claim that a Russian law requires that she buy her own ticket, so she really just needs you to wire money. Or, similarly, at the airport Russia won't allow her to depart unless she leaves a sizable cash deposit to ensure her return. I could go into detail, but just trust me when I say that none of these things are true! Russia/Ukraine never requires a deposit from departing citizens, nor do they require travelers to buy their own tickets.
If money never leaves your pocket, you never get scammed
THE 100 PERCENT SUREFIRE COMMON-SENSE CURE: NEVER SEND MONEY TO SOMEONE YOU HAVE NEVER MET IN PERSON (Skype and phone don't count). NEVER. NEVER. NEVER. NOT FOR ANY REASON! I hope I'm not being too subtle or ambiguous :-)
Other patterns among Russian scammers in email scams
So by following this simple rule you will never lose money to these kinds of Russian scammers, but fortunately I can give you a few more characteristics of an email scam so that you can recognize it as a scam long before the punch line and save you any significant time or emotion on these scammers.
NOTE: The more of the following that are true, the more likely you're dealing with a scammer. It's just a guideline... Use your head!
Many Russian scammers rarely interact... In other words, ask specific questions in your emails to her and you will notice she never actually answers them - ESPECIALLY if they are asked in the middle of your email. She will also never specifically address anything you say in your emails. This is because she never actually reads most of your messages, but just sends her sequence of emails. Occasionally she may address something you said or answer a question you asked, but it is rare, and it is always tacked on to the top or bottom of the message.
She is way too young or too hot. Don't rely on this observation too much because Russian scammers use women's pictures ranging from totally cover-model hot to women with more realistic looks. But use common sense... If you are 50 years old, a little overweight, out of shape, live in a small rural area, and don't have much income, and if she's 25 years old, 5-10, 120 lbs., far hotter than Angelina Jolie, and seems completely in love with you and has no concern at all regarding your age, fitness level, income, or living situation, then wake up! It was just a dream.
This is a delicate matter because I believe dreams do come true. But sheesh, who is really THAT lucky? Hey, if you met this dream girl on Russian-Ukrainian-Women.com, and YOU initiated contact, and if nothing in your dialog with her signaled a red flag (other than her age, looks, height/weight), then you might just be the next winner of life's lottery. But if this woman contacts you out of the blue with no context... Well, then it's time to go splash some water on your face and wake up to the harsh reality that it just doesn't happen like that :-)
She sounds much more "in love" faster than is realistic. If you are new to pursuing Russian women, you may believe that they are just more open and eager to fall in love. Maybe some are, but they aren't stupid or desperate, and won't be "in love" after 2-3 emails. If in her first few messages she says ANYTHING along the lines of "Today at work someone asked me why I looked so happy, and it was because I was thinking of YOU...", it's a scam. They REALLY just don't write/talk like that.
She will resist speaking with you by phone, and DEFINITELY NEVER via Skype webcam. If you ask if she will communicate by phone or Skype, she'll claim she doesn't have a phone and/or a computer with internet and webcam.
It is true that not all Russian women have webcams or sufficiently fast and reliable internet access to sustain a Skype video call, BUT EVERY RUSSIAN WOMAN HAS A CELL PHONE. AND, in Russia all incoming cell phone calls are FREE. So they definitely have the ability to speak by phone at no cost to them. The only "out" they may still try is "But I don't speak English". Well, in that case you arrange for a translated call, WITH YOUR TRANSLATOR.
See Russian Translations: Phone and Written to learn more about arranging for translation help.
She acquiesces to your tests of authenticity. In other words, you are suspicious so you request that she send a scanned copy of her passport or some other photo ID, and she complies with this request.
I know this may not be immediately intuitive, but if you are in communication with a REAL and SINCERE Russian/Ukrainian woman and you ask her to send a scanned copy of an official photo ID you probably won't hear from her again. And unfortunately that only proves that she was REAL. Most real, sincere, self-respecting women would not comply with this request.
It's an ugly paradox... If you're suspicious and request proof of her authenticity and she passes that test, ironically that in itself is strong evidence that she's probably a scammer. If she refuses to submit to the test, it probably shows that she was authentic, but your request causes you to lose her.
It's a no-win scenario. Basically when she fails all the other tests, just assume she's a scammer and move on.
She wants to visit you in your country first before you have ever met. She claims she has or can get a visa, and maybe even claims she can pay for her own flights.
She will resist any suggestion of making the first meeting in her city. She may claim that it is Russian/Ukrainian custom for the girl to visit the man's city first. OR her location (as she claims) is in some seriously small, remote area that would be very hard for you to visit.
In such a case this is the very reason she chose that location - it's to deter anyone from suggesting the first meeting there.
As I say elsewhere on this site, the first meeting must be in HER CITY! This is absolutely essential. It's the most natural flow, but it also eliminates a LOT of scam opportunities.
Use good sites!
Between these telltale signs you can easily eliminate nearly any risk of email scams. But if you don't want to need to become an expert in recognizing Russian scammers, I would recommend Russian-Ukrainian-Women.com
. Their scam prevention practices are the best in the business. But it is an open site where thousands of members post their own profiles, so scammers slip through sometimes.
But be ready if you post profiles on Russian Cupid
(formerly RussianEuro) or Ukraine Date
. I GUARANTEE Russian scammers will contact you on these sites. These are great sites and they always investigate reports of scammers and remove them immediately, but there's only so much they can do. So just be sure to sidestep the Russian scammers.
And on these two sites, there are two really simple tricks to weeding out most of the Russian scammers without wasting a single minute:
When they contact you either with a "Show Interest" message or a regular message, WAIT AT LEAST 24 HOURS BEFORE ANSWERING (but 48 hours would even be better). It's that simple.
How does this help? Because, from what I have gathered from much observation and analysis, the Russian scammers there are almost always removed from the site in less than 24 hours. I'm not 100% sure, but given the speed with which Russian scammers are removed from this site, my guess is that they have "scam bait" profiles that are monitored. In other words, site management routinely posts fake profiles of men designed to attract the scammers, and as soon as they start receiving messages from obvious scammers, they pull the scammer's profiles.
In my experience, in at least 95% of the cases where I received contact from a girl on these sites who seemed too young or too hot, and she hadn't viewed my full profile (see the next point), her profile was deleted less than a few hours later.
So, WAIT 24 HOURS BEFORE ANSWERING A GIRL WHO SEEMS TOO GOOD TO BE TRUE.
Ukraine Date and Russian Cupid have this little feature where you can view all the women's profiles who have viewed your profile. SO, when you get an "Interest" message (or just a regular message), click on the link to view the women who viewed your full profile. If the girl who sent the interest or message isn't there, she is probably a scammer, or at the very least, isn't very serious. If she IS there, it is much more likely that she is real.
Now this one is a little tricky. I would say that if you DO see a girl who wrote you in the list of women who viewed your profile, it's a pretty good bet that she's real. The reverse is not necessarily 100 percent reliable. The reason for that is that they can view profiles without being logged in, and if they do view your profile when they are not logged in, the system won't know it was them and they won't appear in the list of women who viewed your profile.
HOWEVER, I find it highly improbable that a woman would view your full profile while not logged in, then log in to send you an interest message.
If you want to give them just a little benefit of the doubt, when a girl who has not viewed your full profile contacts you, write her through the site's mail system thanking her for the message, but then point out that you noticed she hasn't viewed your full profile. Then say something like this, "Well, since my best short introduction is in my full profile along with my recent pictures, probably the best way to start getting better acquainted would be for you to view that..." If she writes back again saying she's really interested and would like your email address, but she still has not viewed your full profile, forget her. She's at least not very serious or honest, and almost surely she's one of a million Russian scammers you need to avoid!
What to do when they finally ask for money
And if Russian scammers do slip through the radar by deviating from the standard email scammers playbook, like actually reading your emails and really customizing her responses, etc. and does eventually ask for money, I HIGHLY RECOMMEND you continue to play their game... She is a FAKE woman in love with you, so wire her some FAKE money! Get her name and address (required for most cash transfer transactions) and make up a fake transfer number, and email the "girl" that you have wired her $3,000 USD and she can pick it up at any Western Union branch. Seriously, if they're going to waste all your time, it's only fair to waste some of theirs!
I did this once and they fell for it! Thirty minutes later I got an angry email, but she left me alone after that.
The REAL key to avoiding Russian scammers
No matter how you slice it, there is one key reality to keep in mind that can almost completely insulate you from scams: Russian/Ukrainian women DO NOT fall in love over a few emails. The BEGINNING of a relationship can start via email, and can progress A LITTLE via more interactive means such as phone calls and Skype video calls.
But NOTHING REALLY HAPPENS UNTIL YOU MEET IN PERSON, and the best place for that first meeting is HER CITY, no matter how costly or inconvenient it is for you. If you're serious, THAT'S what you do, and you do it in a way that eliminates any possibility of her getting cash out of the deal.
That means you book your own flight. You search for and book your own accommodations. You DON'T send her money to book a place for you. You obviously pay for all your entertainment together, and maybe a small gift on each date, and maybe a taxi as needed, but that's all. NO SENDING MONEY, NO GIVING HER MONEY.
If an interpreter is needed, YOU FIND the interpreter WITHOUT THE GIRL'S HELP.
You MUST get out of the mindset that all this is going to happen without you GOING THERE.
Eliminating Russian scammers completely
ALMOST ALL ONLINE SCAMS are rooted in distance, anonymity, and unfamiliarity. When you must do all your communicating online where anyone can say anything followed by spending thousands of dollars to make a trip to see someone, there's a lot of room for Russian scammers to enter the picture.
But if you want to avoid ALL online scams there is one amazing approach: JUST Live in Ukraine
and meet girls in natural contexts instead of online/email.
You don't even need to go online except to book your flights!
When you live in Ukraine you can meet women naturally, ask them out for coffee instead of a Skype chat. And instead of taking a week off work and flying halfway around the world, you walk ten minutes to the coffee shop!
The opportunities for scams just melt away when you LIVE THERE. So read my page on that subject at Live in Ukraine!
*** Reviewed/Updated October 2018 ***