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Russian Internet Dating Scams
From the US Embassy in Moscow:
The growing popularity of Internet romance has led to the growth of fraudulent online activity in Russia directed at Americans and others outside Russia. The United States Embassy in Moscow is receiving increasing numbers of complaints from American citizens who have been lured into online relationships via false internet profiles. Often, these are men pretending to be women who make contact with Americans “usually men“ over the Internet through dating websites or chat rooms. The fictitious person then seeks to create a virtual relationship through the exchange of photos and e-mails. At some point s/he begins to ask for money, frequently asking that it be transferred through wire services. S/he commonly states that the money is needed to help resolve a family tragedy or arrange for a trip to the United States. A copy of a fraudulent U.S. visa is sometimes attached to prove good intentions. The U.S. Embassy in Moscow urges Americans to exercise caution many U.S. citizens have lost hundreds, and even thousands, of dollars.
There are common factors in these Internet scams. Scammers usually misinform the Americans about travel expenses and/or they inflate the cost of the expenses that do exist. They lure the American in with e-mails, pictures, phone calls, fake visas, and even e-mails from fake travel agencies in an attempt to prove their good intentions. Typically, something happens and they "can't leave the country." They either "are hospitalized for an injury" and a "member of the family" contacts the American citizen requesting money, or a "member of the family" needs an emergency operation and needs money. Sometimes they are stuck at the airport and are not allowed to board until they can show they have a certain amount of dollars to cover their expenses while in the U.S. Some claim to have been robbed of the money that was sent or claim that they are detained at the airport. Again, their purpose is not to immigrate to the U.S., but to get as much money as possible from the victim. Most of these scammers are actually men who are paying women a minimal fee to sit and pose for pictures and pick up the money at an office of a money transfer agency.
Please keep in mind that, while the U.S. Embassy in Moscow does not have the authorization to initiate investigations of these scams, the Fraud Prevention Unit can verify the authenticity of any U.S. visa via e-mail at FPMM@state.gov.
FAQs to Russian Internet Dating Scams
1. I've heard a lot about Internet dating scams involving Russian women. I would like to know whether the woman I have met is for real, but all I have is her name and photo. Is this enough to find out if she exists?
Unfortunately, the U.S. Embassy cannot verify the identity of Russian women. Russia has strict laws protecting the distribution of information about Russian citizens. The embassy has information on foreign citizens only if a person has actually applied for services from the U.S. government.
2. Can you tell me whether this visa is genuine or if this woman has applied for a visa?
If you would like to verify whether someone has received a visa, you may contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
3. I've heard there are blacklists of women who are known Internet dating scammers. Does the U.S. Embassy have a blacklist? Where do I find a blacklist?
Although the U.S. Embassy does not maintain such a list, there are many Internet blacklist websites, where victims of scams have placed information and identities of people who have defrauded them. It may be helpful to perform an Internet search for such sites.
4. I think I have been scammed. I have sent this woman $2,000.00 and now I find out her visa is a fake. How do I get my money back?
We regret that the U.S. Embassy has no way of obtaining your money for you. We suggest contacting the money transfer agency or your credit card company to ascertain their policies in such cases.
5. I want to lodge a complaint with the Russian government and the U.S. authorities about being scammed. Can the U.S. Embassy help me? Who do I contact?
Because the U.S. Embassy is a diplomatic mission and not a law enforcement agency, you will need to go through the appropriate law enforcement channels, should you believe you are a victim of fraud. You may contact law enforcement authorities in your area. You may also visit the Internet Fraud Complaint Center hosted by the FBI at http://www.ifccfbi.gov/ 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: www.russianembassy.org.
6. My Russian girlfriend wants to come visit me but says that she must purchase insurance and have $300.00 in cash to show she can afford to travel. How much money are Russians required to show?
To receive a U.S. non-immigrant visa, applicants are not required to show cash or proof of insurance for travel. For more information on the visa application process and requirements, please visit our website.
7. The woman I'm writing to says that she needs $1,000.00 to show for "pocket" money or the airline won't let her board the plane. Is this true?
There are no Russian or American customs or airline regulations requiring travelers show proof of income or pocket money to travel to the United States.
8. I would like to bring my Russian girlfriend to the United States to visit and she says I must wire her the money for a ticket. I don't want to send it directly to her. If I send the money to the Embassy, can you buy the ticket for her? Can you recommend a travel agency I can send the money and have them buy the ticket?
The embassy cannot suggest or verify the validity of private companies or organizations within Russia, nor can the embassy purchase tickets. Tickets can easily be purchased in the United States directly from the air carriers for Russian citizens. In addition, applicants are NOT required to have a ticket prior to the visa interview. In fact, applicants are counseled NOT to by tickets or make arrangements until they have the visa in hand. Scammers will cite fictitious American or Russian regulations requiring that the tickets be purchased in Russia with cash in order to get the cash sent overseas.
9. My girlfriend says that she must go to a tour agency and pay $500 for her visa application and visa, and it will take 2 months. Is this right? What is the procedure for Russians to get a tourist visa?
All visa applications are submitted to a Russian courier service “Pony Express“ for delivery to the Embassy. The U.S. government charges a processing fee of $100 for each application. The courier service charges a delivery/handling fee. However, there are no additional fees, nor any requirements to show traveling money. For information on how to apply for a visa, please visit http://moscow.usembassy.gov.
Once an applicant submits their application, they are immediately scheduled for an appointment to appear for an interview within the following 10 days (or within 21 days during peak travel seasons). At the appointment at the Embassy, the applicant is interviewed by an American Consular officer and is immediately told whether he or she is eligible for the visa. If the decision is positive, the visa is sent to the applicant within 72 hours through Pony Express.
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