I get a lot spam. I administer 9 websites and have 11 email addresses. I've accepted spam as an evil that is necessary in order to enjoy the Internet. Every once in a while, a piece of spam clears my software filters, passes right through my mental filters, and is opened and read. The best spam is spam you don't know is spam. On November 9th of 2003 I was fooled.

Hello! My name is Kseniya. I like your profile and I think that I want to know you better. If you want to correspond with me too, my e-mail address is: kseniya_e@front.ru. If you send me at e-mail then I will send you my photos and more about me. Please write me on my email.
Best regards Kseniya.

I had to read the email a few times. Profile? I didn't have a profile. I was a little bit curious about the matter (and I always like looking at photos of women), so I replied.

The next day I received a reply from Kseniya, complete with attached photographs.

One of the many photos I received from Kseniya
Hello Chuck. I am very happy, that you answered to me. I could not answer to you before because I arrived in the village to my grandmother. Today I come back to my town and was glad read your letter. I want tell to you some about myself. My name is - Kseniya. I am 27 years old.

I have been given birth December, 8 in Yoshkar-Ola city, and now I live in it town in Russia. Soon i will be 28 years old. I am single girl and before never be married. I do not have children but I love children very much.

I work in kindergarten, I am teacher, I bring up small children - preschool age. I like my work very much. I love all children and if it children don't my I love that children too..

I live all my life with mum. I don't remember my daddy. They have divorced with my mum, when I be 3 years old and I don't remember his. My Mum speaks that he has found other love and that he don't want have children and their marriage was not kept.

My father and his love drinks much alcoholic. They used alcoholic production constantly much. I don't see my father all it time after when i be 3 years old. But I am glad and very happy that I have such good mum. She has brought up me. We with mum lived together in rent apartment.

I have the grandmother - Anna Ivanovna, she lives in village, My friends speak, that I am kind and honest girl. My friends like in me my fidelity and my kind heart. I has made scanning my photo album and now I send some photos to you.

I have never been in America before, it is possible on a site there was what that a mistake, I do not know why that cannot see the structure even. I want tell more about my town. It is capital republic of Mari-El. My town location on approval 800-850 kilometers from the Moscow, and on approval 150 kilometers from Kazan city. Do you know about it city?

Tell me more about yourself and about your family??? Please send me your photos. I wait your answer.

Right about now every internal alarm I had was going off. I went to Google to investigate. First I entered Republic Mari-El. I quickly found out Yoshkar-Ola was the capital city. Next I entered Yoshkar-Ola Republic Mari-El into Google. There it was, the fourth item returned: Yoshkar-Ola. Republic Mari-El, Russia: Online dating scams.

As it turned out Mari-El was a hotspot for online dating scams. There are quite a few groups that operate in the area. Most are language students from the local university. They obtain photographs of young Russian women and then solicit western men and hopefully start up an online relationship. When the time is right, they start asking for money. In many instances the email's don't even come from women.

Most scams take one of two forms. The first is a visitation scam. After the relationship is developed, the woman says she has a friend at a travel agency who can arrange for her to obtain a tourist visa. It will only cost $200 dollars American. If you send the money to her via Western Union, she can get the visa and be with you in no time at all. However after the money has been sent, the woman usually disappears.

The second scam is similar. After the two have been talking via email for a while, the man receives and sobbing email. The woman's Internet connection is about to be shut off because she can't pay her $150 phone bill. She can't imagine not corresponding with the man everyday and pleads for his help. As in the first scenario, after the money is received, the woman usually disappears.

These activities are classified as fraud in Mari-El, however it is difficult to catch and prosecute these scammers. Many men never come forward. Of the few that do, it is difficult to track down the perpetrators as no real information about these women is ever received.

I found all of this fascinating. At first it surprised me that anyone would ever fall for this. But then I realized that there are many lonely people out there and these people might try things that might not seem so rational. This made me angry. It made me angry that these men were being taken advantage of. I decided to start up an online relationship with Kseniya. My goal was to obtain as much information about her as I could and then hand that information over to the appropriate authorities.

Over the next month I received a total of 21 e-mail's from Kseniya. The first few detailed how hard life was in Russia. It was impossible to find a suitable man as all Russian men drink too much vodka. Work was hard to find and it was too cold. She dreamed of some day walking along sandy shores.

This was stage one - introductions. They play on the typical Russian stereotypes. There are no jobs. Russian men are horrible husbands. They drink too much and are full of infidelity. They need someone to save them.

In her sixth letter her tone changed.

I cannot precisely describe the feelings and that occurs to me. But I know, that your letters have changed my life. My life became rhythmical and real. Your letters give my heart very high warmly and bring pleasure.

When I go in internet-cafe and I see your letters, in my heart rhythmical pulse starts to make the way in increasing frequency. And when I see your mail, I became very happy. I read your letters and I present that that you describe. I really am glad and smile, I am happy to read your letters.

I cannot understand what feeling with me, but I know precisely that something has changed in my soul on the best, I nevertheless do not know that is, but I shall try, understand it feelings. I hope soon to receive from you news.
Yours Kseniya

The con was evolving. We were in stage two - profession of love. Her next four e-mail's detailed how much she cared for me. How much I had changed her life. How she couldn't wait to be with me and show her love for me.

In her eleventh e-mail we entered stage three - asking for money.

I today went to Travel agency wanted to start to make out the international passport and the visa. I have written the application on reception of the passport and the visa. Travel agency has given to me the sum of money which I should pay. This sum makes 280 dollars, 120 dollars on the passport, 100 dollars on the visa, and 60 dollars for the given services of Travel agency. But I do not have such sum. I had only 1500 roubles. I thought that this money will suffice me on official registration of papers. I never had to be engaged in registration of such documents and I did not know anything.

I need in your moral, financial support, the help. In agency to me have told that the passport and the visa can be issued during two weeks, the more likely I would have money resources, the faster I could start to legalize papers. I want to arrive as soon as possible to you too. I think that we should be in time you to meet about New Year. I shall try to do the utmost and impossible, to be with you beside my loved.

I shall wait from you for the letter with impatience.
Yours Kseniya

There it was. In a little over 2 weeks and just 11 e-mail's this Russian women had fallen in love with me and wanted to abandon everything she knew in her native country. She sought to come here and live the rest of her life in bliss with me. How lucky I was to have happened across such a woman.

I had to wonder once again why anyone would send money to someone they had never met or even talked to.

Over the next week I tried to get as much information as I could about Kseniya. She gave me an address, but I was unable to confirm it. I tried to get a phone number but she claimed not to have one. She wanted the money via Western Union. I told her this was impossible. Any money I was to send had to be sent via bank transfer. (I was hoping to get an account number that could be traced) She claimed not to have a bank account and told me she could not receive money in this manner.

Then our relationship ended abruptly. She accidentally sent me an email intended for someone else.

Hello my Bryon. I have received from you the letter. You have asked me provide for me exactly what I will need in order to process the transaction. I to you allowed the data which are necessary for you that you could make a remittance. Also you me have asked will be enough 600 dollars???? I think, that will suffice 600 dollars to me on charges of registration. The international passport, the visa and to travel to Moscow.
Yours Kseniya

Kseniya realized what she had done immediately. She attempted to explain the situation.

Hello again my Chuck!!!!!!!

I have just sent you the letter, was going to leave from internet-cafe. Suddenly I have noticed that instead of your name Chuck has been written Bryon. At me heart has stood, breath when I have seen it has stopped. I do not know as it could take place, I badly understand in a computer. I have asked the manager internet-cafe why it has taken place?????

The manager to me has told, that it could happen that up to me other girl corresponded. To whom she wrote the letter, this name appeared in my letter. I do not know that now you to me tell????? I very much regret about happened. It fortuity!!!!!!!! I think that you should understand me. I shall wait from you the letter.
Yours Kseniya

She actually wanted me to believe that she stepped away from her cafe computer and another girl stepped in and mischievously changed the names. I couldn't stand it any longer. This woman took me for a real fool. My good intentions went out the window and I tore her the new asshole she needed. I didn't get any more e-mail's from Kseniya.

For men who are looking for romance abroad, there are several hundred reputable international dating companies out there. I should point out, there are just as many dishonest ones. Be sure to carefully research any company you are thinking of doing business.

Even if a company is reputable, dishonest girls can still occupy their member lists. Here are a couple of things to keep in mind:

No woman is going to fall in love with you via e-mail after a week.

Think hard before sending money to someone you have never met.

One or two pictures isn't too uncommon. Is she sending you many more? (Kseniya sent me 9 in total) If a woman can't even afford a phone how can she afford a digital camera and/or scanner?

How sluttie-looking are the pictures? Warning alarms should be going off if they're too provocative. Beware of sending money via Western Union. Once it's sent, you can never get it back.

You can verify a woman's address by sending her flowers. If a florist can't find her house then it doesn't exist. Invest $30 or $40 and save yourself a lot more in the long run.

Pictures like this one are
sure to be from a scammer
As with all things in life, use prudence and caution when in unfamiliar territory. Keep spam in the trash and remember not all international women want to move to the USA.

For a comprehensive listing of known online dating scammers visit:

Originally published in Acrimony Magazine Issue #7 March 2004