Romance Scams

An introduction to love or dating scams

Love scammers prey on those looking for companionship and affection, and turn that against them in a completely cynical manner. Usually, the scammer is a man pretending to be a woman to snare a male victim, although some scammers are female, and some male scammers target female or gay victims. Many of the scammers are based in Russia and surrounding areas, and there are suggestions that the Russian mafia may be deeply involved in dating scams. It is also popular in Africa. Scammers use legitimate dating sites and chat rooms to find victims, or general interest websites like MySpace, and some create fictitious dating sites just to snare victims.

The classic signs of a love scam

  • The object of your affections shows you pictures of herself/himself which are of very high quality and look posed. They may have come from modelling sites on the internet or the scammer may have paid a model or asked a girlfriend to pose for them. Far more quickly than might be expected in an online relationship, the scammer will be willing to send you photos of him or herself scantily-dressed and in provocative poses.
  • You very quickly receive declarations of love, commitment and a desire to spend the rest of their life with you, long before you have met or spoken to each other. The scammer says they want to move to your country and live with you after only a short period of time.
  • The scammer’s emails are generic; they may not be addressed to you by name or they use the wrong name. The emails include lots of information about the scammer, but very little that directly relates to you or to questions you have asked or information you have given. The scammer is operating from a script and will want to deviate as little as possible because to do so means more work and makes it harder to keep track of the various victims he/she is communicating with.
  • The scammer will claim to be a US or UK citizen who happens to be travelling in Africa, Russia, or somewhere other than their home country. This is because some countries are seen as high-risk for scams, so the scammer wants to dissasociate themselves but needs to explain why the email comes from an internet address (IP) based there if you check, or to explain why, later on, you will be asked to send money there.
  • The scammer will ask for goods to be delivered to the home of the victim so that it looks to the seller as though the scammer/buyer is in the same country as the seller (which is lower risk). The victim then forwards the delivery to the scammer, and is the first port of call for the police when they come looking for the stolen goods.
  • The scammer asks for money early on in the relationship, and certainly as soon as you show signs of being committed to the scammer. You will be asked to send the money via Western Union or Moneygram rather than by check or bank transfer. They may claim to need money for living expenses, or for medical treatment for a sick relative. Another popular reason is to ask for money to pay for a visa and flight to visit you. The scammer will make excuses as to why you need to send cash if you offer to buy the flight for them or arrange the visa yourself. What they will not tell you is that it is virtually impossible for Russian women to get tourist visas for the US. Alternatively, the scammer may ask for your bank account details or ask you to cash a check for them and send on the proceeds via Western Union. This is a standard check or financial scam, but using the love angle to build confidence and trust – for more information see our pages on Fake Check Scams and Other Financial Scams.

What to do is you think it’s a scam

Follow the links here for more information, or ask for advice in this forum. Do not send money. Ask for an address and a landline phone number and research both to see if they are legitimate. If you can afford to, send a gift to the address, or have flowers deliverd. Don’t tell the scammer what you are sending, but be specific with the florist about exactly what colour or style you want. Ask your girlfriend or boyfriend to send you a photo of themselves holding the present. If they are the same person as in your other photos and the flowers match or the gift is the one you sent, you can relax. If they make excuses as to why they cannot give you an address or send a photo or they send one that does not match the person or the gift, you have clear evidence that something is amiss.

More information on love scams

Advice from the Australian govt

UK Office of Fair Trading consumer advice

Information on Russian dating scams

Dating site advice on scams

Romance scam database

Tips on how to avoid love scams

News items on love scams

CNN – Russian dating scams exposed

BBC – dating scams warning

Australian taken hostage in Mali love scam

VNUNet – Man loses £16,000 in love scam

MSNBC – Scammers target singles’ chat rooms

Learn about scammers’ fake sites at aa419. Report scams to the Internet Crime Complaint Centre at IC3.

Examples of love or dating scam emails

Some typical Russian love scam emails.

Hello dear friend!

My name is Maria. I am 26 years old. I’m from Russia, city Cheb0ksary. I live together with my mum and I work as adviser on sale home appliances. I have many various hobbies: sport, a photo, drawing. I dream to have strong and happy family. It’s my purpose in life. I want to be happy and to do happy my family.

Recently I thought that I have it already. However……. I wish to tell you history which have pushed me write to you. 6-7 months ago I have got acquainted with man from your country. His name is Peter. Our meeting was at a seminar in city St.Peterburg. It was the working meeting. Between us began the novel. It was so fast and I thought that it’s my man. Through 3 days he has left home. We have understood that letters can not replace our meeting face to face again.
Peter has told that I should arrive to him!!! I was very glad during that moment. I wrote the application for reception visa. I waited reception of visa approximately half of year.All this time Peter called and wrote to me letters. All things was very good. I have received the invitation from the ambassador for reception visa.

My director has given me holiday from work and I have gone to Moscow to receive visa. I said this good news to Peter, but he told that he does not want our meeting. He played with me. He has told me that he has wife with 3!!!!!! children and now he don’t want our meeting. I have been broken… I could not think that it was game with my feelings….. I did not think that people are so severe……. Now I am in Moscow and waiting for reception visa. I don’t want that all was gone for nothing and will be glad if my visa will be useful to our meeting. I could arrive already in 7-8 days, but I have problem. I don’t know any man who would like my arrival. I hope that it will not sound silly if I will ask you about our meeting and good time together.. I don’t know your ideas about my letter, but it would be fine if we could meet and have some weeks or months together.

I want to use my visa for trip to your country and search man with which I would like to have happy and strong family. I was never married and have no any children. I’m woman which ready to creation family with good man. I don’t know about you anything, but I want it very much. It would be fine if we could meet, to do friendship or more than simply friendship. I will be happy if you also have a free time and we could meet soon. I don’t know about your plans at present time, but I sincerely hope that we can have meeting with you in the near future. You can write all that you want. Ask any questions which interest you. I hope that you understand my English I began to study English approximately 1,5 year ago.

Write to me back and I will tell more about myself and send my photos.

Please, write to me back and send your photos on my regular e-mail:

Have a good day,

To me so it is pleasant that you have answered my letter. At first I long doubted, and whether it is necessary to me to distract you? But has thought, and why and is not present, in fact dialogue with such person as you, will be for me pleasant rest.

I am confident that you the excellent interlocutor. Probably I shall not be mistaken, if I shall tell, that you will be for me the good and true friend. I know that you would like to learn about me, therefore I shall tell about myself a little. My name is Svetlana. To Me of 27 years. On a sign on the zodiac I “Balance”, date of my birth on October, 24 1979 .I was born and I live in Russia, the city of Kazan! I consider myself as the charming girl. Very much I love romanticism, that at times, many my friends do not understand in me. They adhere to real positions more. But I consider, that romanticism should be always, without it is boring and monotonous Life. And I love the nature,
flowers, singing of birds, a solar lawn, sometimes to embrace a tree. But all this would be romantic if a number was the favorite, reliable, true friend.

I very kind, cheerful and hardworking girl. I can support any theme of conversation. I do not consider myself as the boring girl, and is confident, that it will be very interesting to us to communicate. Unfortunately, I do not have own computer, therefore I go to the internet of cafe. I yet do not know a computer in perfection, but some skills have already mastered. Probably it is interesting to you, why I use the Internet services. All the matter is that recently I have seriously reflected on the partner in life, about that person with whom I would lead all life. I heard about many cases when Russian girls marry foreigners and are very happy. Well certainly happened Cases of dissonances, but I hope that me it does not threaten. I very much wish to find the person who would understand me and Supported in all, And the most important loved and respected. On it I finish the letter, but I would like to ask you to write to me about myself, about the character, about your life. You use a house computer or go to the Internet of cafe? Simply it would be desirable to receive more often letters from you, Both to write to you, and to not take away from
you your precious time.

I am sorry for that that could not answer earlier! I have forgotten that I have an Internet address. I seldom here happen. Now I shall try to write to you more often if you will show interest?

Thanks you big for your photo which you have sent me. I was glad to receive it. I Has looked at you and I can tell to you the following. You nice the man. You cheerful. Strong and strong the man. I hope, that also have drawn your attention!? Also I wish to inform you, that you stylish the man.

I ask tell to me where do you live?

You are engaged in what kind of sports?

You would like to have the big garden?

You still have not found to yourself the girlfriend?

If you something interests, ask, I with the great pleasure shall try to answer you. Pleasant to you of day,

Your new friend Sveta.

So, you get emailing with your new found love on the internet, then they might hit you up with the translation fee request, they say they can’t afford to have your emails translated, so can you send money for them to get it done.

Hi dear xxxxx!

Thank you very much for your letter! I am so glad to get it and your letter confirmed my thoughts that you are serious towards us. For me it is very important as I don’t want my heart to be broken once again..

Barry , so now I know your thoughts and attitude to sex. And now I am curious what do you think about love? Or it is the same for you as sex? I want to tell you my vision about love. Love isn’t perfect. It isn’t a fairy-tale or a storybook, and it doesn’t always come easy. Love is overcoming obstacles, facing challenges, fighting to be together, holding on and never letting go. Barry love is work, but most of all, love is realizing that every hour, every minute, every
second of it was worth it because you did it … together. Hold every person close to your heart because you might wake up one day and realize that you’ve lost a diamond while you were too busy collecting stones. That’s why I want us to feel so close to each other. To share all our thoughts and emotions.. All our wishes and desires.. Do you agree with me?

Barry I have not had much time to write you and I made a lot to stay in contact with you. But yesterday I had long conversation with my mother. She said that she doesn’t let me to pay for the translation of our correspondence anymore as we have lack of money and family our budget is very tight. Mother said that if you are really interested in me, you will help our relationship and will pay for the following letters taking in account that I paid for the previous ones. I though that I could write you in Russian but I have no computer at home and.. well, I type with the turtle speed.. I don’t know what to do as my parents are the most important people on Earth for me and I don’t want to make them upset. I hope you understand me.. What shall we do?

With a hope…