Have you ever received spam from Russian women looking for a man? Usually it’s roughly the same story (often in broken English), nice picture attached underneath…
For example, meet my new friend Irina:
Hello my friend.
My name Irina, I have addressed in agency of acquaintances in search
of the man, and to me have given your electronic address that I could write and get acquainted to you with you, now, I will tell to you not much about myself. I the lonely good and beautiful girl, I very much wish to find the man with which, I can construct serious relations, I do not smoke and I do not drink, I go in for sports, I love rest, to walk on coast, to have a rest on the beautiful nature, at me it is a lot of interests and I think, that it very much to like you.
I very much want, that you have written me on mine e-mail the address: firstname.lastname@example.org
it is the address with which, I write to you and I think that you will answer me very soon, I will tell to you about myself I will send you the best photos and I think, that we can learn with you each other on much better as you, I have put in this letter the photo you can look at me. I will wait for your letter, I think that you very soon will answer me. Your future friend Irina.
Well, I’ve never been on a Russian dating site or anything, so the stories of how they got my email address or that they liked ‘my profile’ or such, that’s all nonsense. Another thing is that the email always comes from a completely different address (and name) than the one they tell you to use in the message (which is usually a free service such as gmail, hotmail or yahoo). So it looks like the mails are sent through hacked computers or fake accounts. Like a lot of spam, perhaps with a botnet of zombie PCs.
I figured that other people probably would have gotten the same email, if it was indeed some kind of spam/mass mailing thing… And indeed, when I googled for the email address, I found the exact same mail with the exact same picture posted on a blog somewhere.
One of them caught my eye in particular, as it was in my native language (with Google Translate or such). How did they know? I suspect that they harvest e-mail addresses (and apparently even nationalities) by scanning through online forums and social networking sites.
But clever as the spamming operation may be, I could not quite figure out what the objective was. They were not trying to sell me anything. So there may have been some kind of scam involved instead. So I thought at one point: I’m just going to respond to a few of them, and bait them a bit, see if it will lead to any answers.
I was quite surprised that there was a response at all. And the response was not just automated. The response was in English, and it was indeed stated that “she” had used an online translator and didn’t actually speak my language. She also responded in detail to some of the things I mentioned in my mail. She told me she lived in Kazan, and that she was an orphan with no family (could be true, but at the same time very conveniently avoids any talk about family). The time zone of the email message was also consistent with Kazan. Bizarre. There was also a new photo. She said that she had no computer, and answered her mail from an internet cafe (could be true, but it would also make you difficult to trace).
So I replied again, because it still wasn’t obvious what she wanted from me… but she started fishing for personal info a bit… Of course I’m not going to answer any of that. Anyway, we mailed back and forth a few times, there was always a new picture there, always the same girl:
One thing I noticed about these pictures is that they don’t look ‘professional’. It seems that she took the first two pictures herself, with the camera in her stretched-out arm. Another thing is, they are ‘decent’ pictures. It’s not like they’re trying to lure you into something with a sort of ‘striptease’ in pictures (if you want to impair a man’s judgement and get money out of him, that’s the easiest way). I suppose the pictures are real. Question is, does the person in these pictures even know that they’re being used for this? For all I know, they could have been harvested from Facebook or similar social sites.
Then I sent an email where I explained that I had long realized that something was a bit fishy… and I wondered what it was exactly that she wanted. Did she want to come over, and if so, would she expect me to pay the trip? But unfortunately there was no answer. Because that was my theory so far. That the scam was to get you to send them money, but they never had any intention of really coming over.
Funny enough I got another one of these mails not much later, with EXACTLY the same story, but this time in English. She used the same name, same age, also claimed to be from Kazan, and like the first girl, she also claimed to be an orphan. BUT, this time there was a photograph of a completely different girl:
So I responded to this girl as well… and the answer was almost identical to the first girl, almost down to the letter (right down to details such as her weight, height and birthday). So the plot thickens… I suppose it makes the theory more likely that they just grab a set of pictures from Facebook or such.
Anyway, I happened to follow the documentary series by Jelle Brandt Corstius: “From Moscow to Murmansk”. And one episode also covered Russian dating agencies. Apparently women are quite unhappy there. Women outnumber men about 3 to 1. So a woman is glad to find a husband at all. And Russian men are rather abusive as a result (that, and too much vodka)… So the women go to an agency looking for foreign men, in the hope of better opportunities.
So I’m wondering … what’s the story here? Could it just be a scam … they try to make you pay for everything, and then never actually show up? Or is there more to it than that? Would these Russian dating agencies be employing modern spam techniques to get in contact with foreign men? And were those women really looking for a foreign man? In that case, who would then be responding to emails? Would they do that themselves, or would an employee of the agency handle them? I would think that the average Russian woman might not own a computer, and as such wouldn’t be familiar with handling email. I also think that most would probably not speak English well enough. And what about the fact that I’ve had the same story twice with two different pictures? Is the story real, but do they just use fake pictures because the real women aren’t as attractive? Or is the story fake as well, and is it really just all about the money?
I’m fascinated by all this, oddly enough 🙂 Who has the answers?