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Dating Fraud Spam Emails

As I discussed in another article, scammers have been quick to capitalize on the growing popularity of Internet dating. Quite often, scammers make contact with potential victims via Internet dating services. However, in other cases, they use a less targeted approach by randomly distributing vast numbers of "bait" emails in the hope of hooking just a few gullible recipients.

A common variant of these spam emails is a brief message in which the "nice girl" purporting to be the sender promises to send pictures if her recipient will reply to a specified email address. I have received dozens of these emails over the last few weeks, both directly from scammers and as submissions from site visitors. An example of one of the messages is included below:
Subject: Can we talk?

Hello! I am bored tonight. I am nice girl that would like to chat with you. Email me at [address removed] only, because I am writing not from my personal email.

Will send some of my pictures
To some, more naive recipients, the messages may seem genuine since, unlike most spam email, they do not contain a link to a website and do not appear to be selling or promoting anything. However, as with typical advance fee and lottery scams, the messages are simply ruses designed to entice potential victims into making contact with the scammer.

I responded to one of these scam emails (using a disposable email address) and received the following reply:
From Marina Pretty

Hi my new friend

Im glad to see that you have decided to reply,I see it is very short letter. It is all right because you are astonished to get my letter. I want you to know that I have only good intentions and I have not any secrets. The thing is that I will work in your country for three months or so and I would like to meet a nice man to fall in love or just be closest friends. I don't want to live in Russia because I have not any chances here, it is hardly possible to explain from first time but I want you to know my plans. I will work in any shop, bar or restaurant the agency that i am going through will suggest me some locations. It will be my choice in the end as to what option to go for.

So I will have a simple work till I improve my English. And I can choose any town of your area,agency will only help me to get a visa and all travel documents + some suggested placed to work in. My best friend last year met the man from the USA when she worked there for three months, too. She had two jobs. From morning till 4 pm she worked in amusement park and after it she worked as a waitress in some bar till midnight.

She was very tired of course but made very good money there.It is special programm for young people who wants to work abroad and I think it is the right way for me , I am lost here,and I think that I look pretty enough to find a better place .I want to repeat the same way,it is only my chance to meet a nice man.I want to work in USA or in Europe or any nice country. I am full of plans and different dreams and I want to share my life with good man because I'm also full of love and tenderness,I know that I am not so beautiful like Hollywood Princess but I do hope to meet my Prince and I am sure he will be not be disappoined to meet me in the real life! This is why I am going to go through the same way. Well,I will close this letter and I do hope to get your reply.

I will leave russia in two weeks or so (I can't tell you everything exactly right now) and I would like to be sure that I have the man who waits for me there. I will work all day and I want to find a man to spend all free time together to get to know each other better.if you have any interest to meet me I will be more than happy to meet you too. I will tell you all details about me and my life if you like my pictures and want to meet me! please send picture of you too!!!

I write to you with my new mailbox [address removed], please write letters now only on this mailbox.

I will wait your next letter.
Kiss you , Marina (this is my name)!
PS here are my pics
I hope they to you will like.
I hope you to me will answer
Kiss Marina
Marina Pretty Scammer Photo 1 Marina Pretty Scammer Photo 2
"Marina" manages to portray herself as rather sweet and innocent, and gullible would-be lovers are likely to reply again, no doubt further swayed by the attached photographs of an undeniably pretty young lady. However, once "Marina" has gradually earned the trust of her victim, she will soon begin asking for money. Since she has already set the groundwork in her initial reply, her first request may be for enough money to cover airfares so that she can come and visit. Alternatively, she may ask for financial help due to a family medical emergency or any number of other bogus excuses.

Of course, "Marina" has no intention of pursuing a relationship with her victim, nor will she ever come to visit him. Her only motive is to separate her love-struck victim from as much of his money as possible and, perhaps, harvest enough of his personal information to steal his identity.

"Marina" goes by a number of other names, including Anna Golovachewa, Tatyana Gorbunowa, and Julia Fedorova. Regardless of the particular alias she is using, the initial scam emails are likely to be quite similar and her fraudulent intentions are the same. In reality, the criminal responsible for these messages is quite unlikely to be the person in the photographs. These scammers have a sizable pool of photographs that they regularly recycle for use in scam messages. In some cases, they simply invent a name to go with a photograph of a model or celebrity that they have scanned from a magazine or downloaded from the Internet.

Internet dating is a perfectly legitimate means of forming relationships. However, it is important that users only go through reputable and secure dating agencies that protect the privacy of their clients. Moreover, caution and common sense is required when dealing with any unsolicited email that asks for friendship or further contact. Anyone who is genuinely seeking a relationship is quite unlikely to randomly email total strangers asking for contact. As with other kinds of scam emails, it is best to delete these messages without replying.



Note:
As mentioned above, I contacted one of these scammers as part of my research. Scam "baiting" can be a useful way to find out more information about these criminals and how they operate. However, caution is required when using these tactics and baiters should take careful steps to protect their identity. For more information on this issue, see:
Scam Baiting - Caution Required


References:
Internet Dating Scams
Dating scammer Tatyana Smirnova from Molodezhnyi, Russia

Last updated: December 7, 2012
First published: September 4, 2007

Write-up by Brett M. Christensen