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Profile of a Scammer - Common Sense Warning Signs:

As with anything Internet related, you must always be weary and use common sense when dealing with people for the first time, this includes those beautiful loving women that inexplicably contact you out of the blue wishing to strike up some sort relationship with you.

The following is a list of warning signs to look for in order to detect a scammer just out to swipe a few bucks from your wallet.

Encountering one or more of these Warning Signs in your own relations should make you pause but remember there is no reason for paranoia! If, however, many of these are present, step back and profile your correspondent because she could be a scammer!
  • She asks for money for Internet costs. (Standard Scenario)
    Now this can be a legitimate request as access to the Net is not so free and easy as it may be for you. Whether you should consider this a Warning Sign depends on the particular circumstances including how she has access to the Internet. If she is using "a friend's computer" or her own then her costs should be minimal. (Incidently, if she has her own computer and internet access from home she is either relatively well-off or this is her job.)

    On the other hand if she is using an Internet cafe or an Agency then you can expect to be asked to reimburse her for her expenses. In the Author's opinion, mentioning costs of translation agencies or Internet cafes right away is more to the girl's credit than after the third letter or posing the situation as a sudden turn of events. Many agencies state in the beginning that you may exchange a couple of letters and then charges will start to apply. Look for other Warning Signs to make the determination.

    (TIP: most agencies have several levels of payment or state simply that "one letter is $ 5, ten is $ 40, etc." It may seem like a hassle and if you wire the money you will end up paying a little more in transaction fees, but consider sending only the minimum amount the first few times. If it is a scam they will have to string you out a while before "cutting you loose" as opposed to if you wire them $ 50 or a $ 100 the first time. During this time you may see some of the other Warning Signs and only be out of pocket a smaller amount in the long run. The bottom line: Never send more money than you don't mind losing.

  • She says she can get a visa. (Visa Scenario)
    One word: "FUHGETABOUTIT!"

    This seems to be one of the most classic scams around and one of the costliest for the uninformed. This scam works well because the scammer running this Scenario spends a lot of time developing a "pseudo-relationship" and will personalize her communication. You should know that a visa other than the "fiancee visa" to the United States cannot be had by a single woman of low income from Russia, the Ukraine or many other lands of the CIS in almost every circumstance. This includes "tours to NYC", "aunts who are travel agents", "descendants of diplomats" etc. etc.!

    Of course it may be possible to obtain a visa to certain other countries so if this is the situation, keep in mind that such a proposal is not confirmation of a scam and just check your own nation's visa requirements and costs before assuming what she is telling you is accurate.

    If you are from the United States or most other countries, you almost certainly will have to go there first to visit any woman you are correponding with in Russia or the Ukraine.

    The bottom line: Start planning now.

  • She wants money for travel. (Travel Scenario)
    This scam goes part in parcel with the Visa scam and is more insidious when the request for travel money is for travel to countries where it is actually possible to visit with or without a Visa. You really should not violate Scam Alert's Prime Directive for the Internet correspondent, but if you must then at least have the smarts to make the arrangements yourself using a good credit card on a refundable basis.

    The bottom line: She should be thrilled that you will take care of the arrangements for her.

  • She asks for money for surgery, debt, accident, or illness. (Illness and Accident Scenarios)
    These are all common reasons scammers use. They are designed to play upon your sympathy. Unless you have met the person and actually cultivated a long-term relationship such a request is probably a scam. Most genuine ladies would not ask a virtual stranger that they are trying to impress for money even in one of these circumstances.

    (TIP: If you really are the big hearted type, offer to send her just a small sum ($ 25) saying that it is all that you can send at this time. Judge her reaction carefully. Remember, in Russia and the Ukraine this amount is not paltry, in fact, it is almost a full month's average wage, so anything less than genuine appreciation for whatever you can do is a sure sign that the request was just a scam. If you are dealing with a scammer though expect everything from silence to assertions that you are greedy or don't love her. But most likely she will be indignant. Imagine they spent all this personal time on you and then the pay off is so small! They could have just sent you form letters and run the Standard Scenario!)

    The bottom line: Keep your sympathy in check and follow your instincts.

  • Her Agency prohibits her from giving you her address.
    Although it is not a guaranteed way to avoid being scammed, you should always obtain your correspondent's personal postal address.

    If an Agency forbids its "client" from giving you her address then there is something seriously wrong with the situation and you should consider it a large Warning Sign.

    The questions are raised of "who is working for whom?" and "just who is the client?" It should be pointed out to the Agency that in normal business relationships, the "client" usually has a say in the terms of the service, especially when it comes to serving as a "translator" for the client's communication. One begins to wonder just how influential the translator is and what other censorship is being practiced.

    However, beyond these philosophical reasons, there simply is no economic justification for an Agency maintaining such a policy and this should be made clear to the Agency. An Agency which is legitimately providing internet access and/or translation services will likely remain necessary. Furthermore, an Agency's goal should always be to facilitate the introduction and communication between its client and you!

    It should be recognized that there are many ways to communicate via the regular post with your correspondent including sending photos, post cards, audio, drawings, objects, gifts, etc. These forms of communication do not require any translation at all! Therefore, an Agency cannot claim that allowing its clients to "bypass" the Agency via the regular post would hurt its normal business services and if it does then it does not have the interests of the "client" at heart.

    The only instance in which it may be considered appropriate for an Agency to deny your request for the girl's address is when the agency sells her address as part of its service. Although still distasteful, at least you can plainly see where the Agency is generating a fair revenue. Depending on the nature of the business and the way it gathers its client's information, this may be ok. The bottom line: Censorship is bad business!

  • She refuses to provide you her address.
    A sincere woman who is interested in getting to know you will never refuse your request for her address. This is especially true when you explain that you desire to get to know her as fully as possible and in as many ways as possible. It is helpful to point out the above ways that you can communicate without the need for translation (should this be her chief concern) and help her to see that using every avenue of communication will help you to get to know each other.
    *Note: While it might be a clear sign if she refuses to give you her address, do not be fooled into thinking that it means everything is ok if she does. Many scammers will give you an address. It just won't be hers or a valid address at all. It is up to you to verify that the address is hers.

    The bottom line: This is one of the few times when you should not take "No" for an answer.

  • She uses a free e-mail service.
    Like asking for money for email costs, this circumstance may or may not be a sign of a scammer. Many people throughout the world use a free e-mail service like Yahoo, Juno, Hotmail. In Russia and Ukraine some of the more popular ones are Mail.ru, Yandex.ru, Hotbox.ru, ukr.net, etc. Although the situation is changing, in these lands there remain three primary ways of accessing the Internet: 1) from work or school; 2) via an Agency or 3) via an "Internet cafe". Some people may claim to use "a friend or relative's computer" who either has access at home or work.

    Basically what you need to remember is if her access is by any source other than an Agency or Internet cafe, she shouldn't have to worry about regular costs and only have to reimburse or contribute to her friend or relative's costs once in a while. [If this is the case keep your eyes wide open for the Illness, Accident, Visa and Travel Scenarios which forgo the nickel and diming of internet expenses for the jackpot of these scams.]

    The real problem from a relationship point of view is that unlike a work address or even an AOL account, the ease of a free email service allows people to create an identity that is virtually untraceable.

    Note: If she changes email addresses during your correspondence from one free mail box to another, it could be a sign that she has been "busted" or that her first email provider has received complaints and deleted the account. In that event you might wish to write to the email service provider and inquire about the previous email address and whether it was deleted by the user or if there was abuse or complaints reported.

    The bottom line: Easy come, easy GONE!



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