Russian Bride Scams

Most of the Russian bride scams actually involve men pretending to be Russian women, and a lot of them are not run from Russia!

In the USA in 2004 a San Bernardino County man was sentenced to 5 years prison for cheating at least 352 men out of more than $1 million through Russian bride scams

They are very lucrative and a group in Russia scammed 1,500 men and extorted more than $1.5 million US dollars from them in 2 years! Most of the money was gained using the infamous 'visa and airfare' scheme.

It preys on men who have dreams, hopes and expectations of finding love, understanding and appreciation in foreign women.

A lot of men feel they have found their true love even though the romance may have only been going a few months.

The woman is wonderful, however she is poor, and desperately needs money. When she asks for help for such things as arranging a trip to meet the love of her life, or to solve a family tragedy, the wallet is opened, and the Russian bride scams have snared another victim.

How Do the Russian Bride Scams Work?

It occurs when a lonely foreign man gets acquainted over the internet with an attractive female from Russia, Ukraine, Belarus etc who then tries to get as much money out of the unsuspecting foreigner as possible.

The money is usually for travelling expenses but the man may also be asked to cash checks, open an Ebay account for the woman, or provide credit card details so that the woman can deposit money to cover travel expenses etc for her to meet the man.

A dating scammer starts by creating a false personal profile with stolen photos from the internet and then joins an online dating agency or chat room. Many online dating sites allow anyone to join for free and often don't screen their members.

The scammer will usually make the first contact and say they are looking for love or a soul mate.

The Russian bride scams usually involve dozens of pre-written letters that the scammers use on the hundreds of replies they receive.

As the scammer is often dealing with so many replies they tend to ignore the questions asked of them and instead write about what they have been doing, the weather, their family members etc and if they do answer any questions, it is usually at the beginning or end of the letter.

Some scammers however realize that the pre-written letters aren't as effective any more and may focus on lesser volume of letters but make them more personalized.

The letter quickly becomes very romantic, flattering and seductive, and within 2-6 weeks the scammer falls in love with the victim! Most of the scammers say it is the first time they have used the Internet to find a man and that they 'feel something special' about this relationship.

russian bride scams

The letters will become filled with phrases like 'my darling', 'my sweetheart, 'my future husband' and have lots of kisses and hugs, and mentions things like 'I  dream of you all day' or that the strong love is overwhelming her, or she is having sexual dreams about him.

Then after the scammer has convinced the victim she is in love with him, she becomes desperate to meet him and commences investigating a visa and travel arrangements. Then she reaffirms her undying love and explains that she has found a way to get a visa and what is involved in the travel.

Some scammers in the Russian bride scams at this point ask for money. The reasons for the money may be for:

  • Passport, visa, air tickets and travel insurance
  • Emergency medical expenses for her or her family due to illness or accidents
  • Internet cafe expenses, cell phone, marriage agency expenses
  • Monthly agency fees
  • Interpreter's fees because her English is not good enough to truly express her feelings
  • Ransom money/debt to the mafia

It usually starts with small amounts for the visa and then builds up to accommodation to travel to the Embassy for the visa, and then airfares. Some scammers will say they have sold their grandmothers jewellery to pay for the trip but are short of the total amount and need some extra money. If the victim offers to buy the tickets using his credit card, the scammer will say that the tickets may get lost in the mail, or she can get a discounted ticket because a family member works in a travel agency etc.

In the Russian bride scams, it is not uncommon to find that the letters asking for money are accompanied with very seductive or revealing photos.

Sometimes if the victim has some reservations about sending money the scammer will send scanned copies of fraudulent visas or air tickets.

If the victim is still hesitant, the scammer may suggest sending some checks or money orders [that her brother has earned from an overseas business and given to his sister to help her out] to the victim to cash and then getting the victim to wire the money back to the scammer to fund the travel expenses [the checks or money orders will bounce!].

Another spin with Russian bride scams is to ask the victim for their credit card information so the scammer can deposit funds into the card to assist the victim paying for the airfares [the goal being to steal the credit card details].

Once the scammer has received money for the visa and airfare, they will be bubbly and excited and then a few days later comes the bad news!

Now there is a need for more money - perhaps $2,000 in cash in order to enter the country to show evidence of adequate funds to support them during their stay, or travel insurance of $1,500. Whatever the reason, it will cause disappointment in the victim, and is usually another opportunity for the scammer to profit.

Some scammers involved in the Russian Bride scams decide to quit at this point and the victim will never hear from them again. Others decide there may be more money to bleed from the victim and continue with yet further 'bad news' about the scammer who:

  • Was beaten and robbed by a taxi driver on the way to the airport and needs more money for new documents and tickets
  • Was involved in a car accident on the way to the airport and needs money for hospital expenses or surgery
  • Was stopped at the airport and arrested for trying to leave with a painting or artifact that was a gift for her sweetheart - and now she needs money to get out of jail or for bribes

Sooner or later the victim realizes they are a victim of the Russian bride scams and stops sending money.

How to Spot the Russian Bride Scams

The list below includes many of the signs of Russian bride scams:

  • She contacts you first and says it is her first attempt to find romance online and  she picked your profile because she liked it
  • Her profile says she is from the US or UK or Canada etc and then she admits she is from Russia and made a mistake, or says that the dating service doesn't allow registrations from Russia
  • Often the profiles or first letter will mention that 'all Russian men drink too much' and may be included in a sentence like "I have very bad marriage experience. My husband drinked too much. We divorce. Now I want to find partner not from Russia, because I dont like russia mens of they most drinking ability"
  • Most of the Russian bride scams originate in Mari El [Yoshkar Ola is the capital and is getting a reputation as a second Nigeria] although they rarely put that in their profiles. Their favourite 3 cities they say they are from are Kazan, Kirov and Cheboksary. You can check if the email originated in Mari El by checking the I.P address in the full email headers. You can put the I.P. address in here and enter it in the box that says "IPWHOIS Lookup. If you are using Yahoo webmail, there is a link about "full headers" in the right top corner. If you are using Outlook Express, right-click the message, then click "Properties", then "Details". If you are using other email clients, read the help files
  • Most of the letters will be accompanied with photos that are revealing and are meant to seduce the man
  • The photos have numbers to match the letter [3.2], or have a different name to hers, or names such as 'I love you'
  • The letters are usually pre-written so are very generic and consist mainly of information such as what she did today, the weather, what she ate today [most seem to love fruit salad!], what her favorite things are etc. Any questions asked of her tend to be answered at the beginning, end or in a P.S. at the end
  • Your name doesn't appear in the letter, and instead she refers to you as 'darling', 'honey', 'sweetheart', 'my prince' or 'my love'. If it does appear, it may be in a different font!
  • Within a couple of weeks she is falling in love with you, and signing the letters such as 'your love Natalia' or 'your future wife Natalia' and including lots of kisses
  • A move to another country is a big move yet she doesn't ask a lot of questions about you, your work, your family, your hobbies and interests, your ideas, your views etc
  • She talks a lot about trust and how she trusts people she deals with. She will talk of how her friends see her daydreaming a lot and suspect she is in love. The letters become progressively sexual and the photos more seductive
  • If there are telephone calls, they usually hire women who can speak English for the calls [called 'prozvon']. Usually the good English of the woman on the phone does not match the bad English of the letters written [the letters are mostly templates written in Russian and interpreted using software like Prompt that has spaces for names, cities, small phrases etc. The spaces are usually not filled in manually and they use a program called The Bat for this]
  • She is the first to bring up the topic of visas and has an urgent need to meet you in person. If you suggest going to her country to meet it will be rejected for some reason
  • She says she will get a tourist visa [just about impossible for her to get one for the US, UK or Canada unless she is earning $5,000 a month]. You should check with your own Embassy
  • She goes ahead and applies for the visa without discussing it with you. No genuine woman would do this and probably wouldn't even know how to do it!
  • She pays for the visa and asks for reimbursement. She also books the air tickets without agreeing a date of arrival with you first. A deposit is paid on the tickets using the proceeds from the sale of family jewellery or borrowed from family of friend etc [the guilt trap!]
  • She provides very detailed instructions for sending the money through Western Union [she will provide you her full name and a 10 digit number so she can receive the money etc]. This should ring alarm bells because the average Russian woman wouldn't know anything about Western Union - only scammers do
  • The name she provides for the Western Union money won't match exactly the name she has been using in her letters. She of course will provide a rational explanation such as her passport is at the Embassy so she is getting a relative or friend to receive it for her.
  • If you offer to buy the air tickets she will find a reason why that is unacceptable such as she can get them cheaper through a friend, or knows a travel agent, or the travel agency she is using doesn't accept credit cards, or the mail is not reliable
  • If you do send her money, then there are always unforeseen problems that require further money such as travel insurance, tickets stolen, health problems, accidents that require medical treatment etc

If You Think Your Girl is Involved with Russian Bride Scams

  • Google her name using a combination of her first and last name. Scammers often change the photos, age, city of residence etc so be prepared for a match of name but different particulars. Check to see if they are on a Russian Bride scams blacklist. They may have a common name like Elena Nikolaeva so it would pay to check she isn't connected to a known scammer
  • Google the sentence from her profile description in quotes. If it returns a lot of results with different names, locations etc, it is a scam
  • Google parts of her letters to you by using phrases or combinations of words that are pretty unique such as 'My liked films it Gladiator and Angel city'. If you find other letters on the internet the same as yours you are probably dealing with the same scammer as they tend to use pre-written letters
  • If you find her name or letters on the internet, DON'T send her money, DON'T tell her you found her details on the internet or on a Russian Bride scammer's blacklist site as they will change their details and be harder to catch
  • If you are still not sure, ask her to have a photo taken of her holding up one of the photos you sent her of you. You could also ask her to have a photo taken that you specify such as in her backyard next to the red flowers she talks about. If she says she lives in Moscow, ask for a photo of her next to the Kremlin
  • Ask her for a scanned copy of her passport if she is asking for money
  • Remember that no honest, respectable woman will ever ask for your money under the circumstances listed above. A true woman does not want your pity or money - she wants a relationship and your love. She would never accept money from you until you have actually met
  • Advise the woman that you are coming to visit her [even if you aren't going to] and see the response as a scammer will find a reason why she should visit you otherwise she gets no money!
  • If your relationship with her is serious, check to see if her profile is still on the dating site and therefore she is still looking for men!
  • If the profile is still there, send a reply using different details about yourself from a different email address and see what reply you get [it may be the same letter you first received!]
  • If the profile is still there, send a reply to her using different details and email address and ask her if she has found someone yet [a scammer will always answer no]

What to do for Russian Bride Scams

  • Once the scammer has asked for money, stop further communications with them
  • Report them to the dating site
  • No matter how trustworthy they may seem, DO NOT SEND THEM MONEY
  • If you have sent them money, your chances of getting it back are really zero, but you should report it to the Police, Western Union [if it was used] or Moneygram [if it was used]
  • If you are from the US, you can also visit the Internet Fraud Complaint Center hosted by the FBI at in order to file a complaint. For information on contacting law enforcement officials in Russia, you may try contacting the Russian Embassy in the United States at:

Advice for Russian Bride Scams

  • Enjoy the relationship, but DON'T SEND THEM MONEY OR CREDIT CARD OR BANK DETAILS!!! and then all you will lose is your heart!
  • If you are a US citizen, the Fraud Prevention Unit can verify the authenticity of any U.S. visa via e-mail at In addition, complete and authoritative information on applying for a U.S. visa is available on the Department of State’s webpage on Visa Information for Temporary Visitors.
  • The Russian Detective provides free resources, articles and investigates Russian bride scams

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