From Russia without love

WITH internet dating all the rage for singles seeking love and romance, dangers abound for the emotionallyvulnerable on the worldwide web. Press correspondent MIKE POPPLEWELL tells of how he was targeted by a ‘Russian bride’ scam sweeping the internet.

A RECENT TV news bulletin about ‘romance fraud’ stopped me in my tracks.
At the time I was in the process of replying to an email from a very attractive young Russian woman who had somehow picked up my email address.
My story is, I’m sure, similar to many others. A breakup of a relationship, at a bit of a loose end, joined a dating agency.
In my case, still a bit emotionally raw, it was purely for friendship, you know, someone to write to and fill a few solitary evening hours.
Then from out of the blue came two emails from Russia. One from the incredibly beautiful Natalia and one from ‘girl next door’ Anna, both in their mid20s.
Having left my 20s behind some 30plus years ago a ‘windup’ was my first thought. The suspects were many.
Natalia wouldn’t have been out of place in the Gestapo as her emails barked out directions of how any subsequent correspondence would progress.
Her emotionally stilted regurgitation of facts and statements being punctuated with frequent repetition of the phrase “you agree?”
This I did not take seriously but Anna’s hard luck story and desire to break out of the confines of a somewhat bleak existence, despite holding down a job in a children’s hospital, seemed plausible enough.
Having an inclination toward charity work anyway I was prepared to chip in with a few quid to give this woman a chance to have a look at life in England.
It was a chance conversation with one of my sons, older than both these women incidentally, that suddenly alerted me to a world of criminal activity I could not have imagined.
Danny, my son, directed me to a website called ‘Russian Detective’ which is run by a Russianborn woman named Elena Garrett who is married to an American and living in Dallas.
Elena’s website is aimed at exposing what is known as the ‘Russian Bride Scam’ which is fleecing lonely, vulnerable men, usually middleaged or older, of millions of dollars across the world.
According to Elena the two emails I received typified the two plans of attack used by the organised criminal gangs responsible for perpetrating these scams.
Natalia’s letters were the impersonal, prewritten, kind churned out in their hundreds daily. They respond only to the occasional question.
In the meantime photos were being sent that were becoming increasingly revealing and poses more uninhibited. A standard practice apparently.
On reading Elena’s warnings I decided to test out the theory of my letters not being actually read but only triggering the ‘next phase’ letter. I made a brief but bawdy, bordering on the obscene, response to the last letter I received and this brought a ‘thank you for your letter, I now feel we’re drawing closer to each other’ reply!
But, Anna, the other correspondent, was a different story. Questions were answered, positive comments were given, affectionate sentiments expressed, facts seemed to increasingly add up to ‘genuine’ but when I checked out Elena’s 17point list of common repeated phrases and storylines in these scams Anna scored 13.
Even a letter to her telling her that the fraud was uncovered didn’t deter her.
Photographic evidence, Russian passport, University Diploma from Medical College I can just about read the script even a 30second video pleading innocence followed. All believable.
Sending the evidence on to Elena her verdict was “a scam very personalised, and a very good one, but a scam nevertheless.”
What amazed me was how anyone can go to the bother of taking someone’s profile, a standard element of online dating, and then create a compatible character profile to entice the intended victim into a fake friendship.
But with four, five or even six figure payouts to be had there are no lengths these criminals won’t go to.
The Natalia character was a joke. How anyone could fall for that defies belief but Anna? That was a very different story and potentially crippling financially and emotionally for victims.
The big mistake both made with me, however, was the assumption that I might have any money in the first place!



from russia with love



from russia with love



from russia with love



from russia with love



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