Armed with this information, I was fully expecting to spend a week being nauseated by odious men preying on vulnerable women, and there were certainly a few on the trip whose misogyny reached prize-winning levels. But the overall story was far more complex. Todd, who had not succeeded in finding his other half at home, had something of a compulsive side to his personality. He spent months methodically whittling down 1, possible brides on Anastasia's site to two top candidates.
He then spent thousands of hours and thousands of dollars chatting with them online.
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Things were going swimmingly with both women. He assumed that his trip to Odessa would involve picking the one he liked most and taking her back with him. But when he arrived, neither of them answered his calls. While Todd's expectations for what a Ukrainian bride might offer were patently unrealistic, it was troubling to watch him venture ever further down the path of disappointment.
Many of the men on the tour were less sympathetic characters than Todd, but all of them were lonely. Some of them were disillusioned with dating scenes in the west, where women did not give them a look; others recovering from a divorce or the death of a spouse. Another man I spent a lot of time with was Stephen, a year-old from Texas, long-divorced, who was on his 11th trip to Ukraine with the desperate hope of finding a wife.
I'm tired of having nobody to share my life with. Stephen ended up meeting a pianist named Elena on the tour.
The General Scam Pattern
On date two she told him she thought he could be her soulmate. By the end of the week he was sure he had found his future life partner. It was an expensive week, with the dinners, taxis, and payment for a translator all adding up, but Stephen was delighted that he had found love. But love in Odessa is not all it seems.
Perhaps 10 years ago, the scenario had been what I imagined, with men swooping in, and women keen to swap the hard grind of poverty-stricken Ukraine for a new life in the US, even if it was a ramshackle house in a North Dakotan town or a sleepy midwestern farm, rather than a Manhattan penthouse or LA beachfront home.
Now, it seems, things are different. I left Stephen ready to propose, but two months later he told me by email that it had all unravelled. Todd did not even get to the date stage; in retrospect, perhaps a lucky escape. The women took their cut of cash for chatting with him, but did not answer his calls when he arrived. He later wrote to me: I've decided to close that chapter in my life and move on. And to pursue the other hopes and dreams that I have. Will I ever find my other half? One can only wonder. At least I can say I tried. If I die a bachelor, so be it.
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I was able to uncover exactly how the scams work due to a chance encounter with Alina, one of the women involved, who felt weighed down by her collusion in what she called "emotional prostitution". She explained the whole sordid array of techniques, from a light impersonalised online-chatting version to a full-service chauffeur-driven platinum fraud, where men are rinsed of cash for a full week in Odessa, thinking they are cementing a lifelong relationship while actually they are being strung along on platonic dates that end with them dispatched to the airport with heavy hearts and empty wallets.
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Many of them come with ridiculous expectations, of course, but I am not sure that anyone deserves this treatment. For the women as well, although hundreds of them make a living from the scams, it is not an easy psychological burden to bear. Alina was evidence of that, and year-old Chris, the tour's youngest member, found that when he confronted his date with accusations about the nature of the business, she burst into tears and said she felt awful, but needed the money to support her mother after her father had died.
Other women were genuinely looking for a young and interesting partner and wanted to leave Ukraine, but spent hours chatting with elderly men in order to make money.
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Anastasia International, while not directly colluding in the scams, runs a highly profitable business model that allows them to flourish. If you are seeing a Russian woman and are keen on meeting her, it is always wiser for you to go visit them instead of inviting them to visit you.
This way you can avoid losing money through a scam and a traditional Russian woman would probably prefer it if the man made the effort to come visit her. This is another common scam used by Russian scammers. A Russian woman will start interacting you but tell you she cannot speak or understand English. After some time, she will tell you she cannot continue communicating with you as she cannot afford to pay for the translation service anymore.
At this point, they either expect you to offer to pay for the service or even ask you if you will be willing to pay for the service so you can continue your relationship. This is a scam and you should never send money for it! There are several fake website masquerading as Russian marriage agencies promising to bring Western men and Russian women together.
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While most Russian dating websites are genuine, a number of them are fake and their so-called members are not real either. They will ask you for large amounts of money, promising to set you up with a beautiful Russian women but your money is as good as gone because the agency is a scam. Choose a reputable dating service or agency in order to avoid being scammed this way. You come across a profile of a young, attractive woman on an online dating site or maybe she contacts you. The photos are stunning, perhaps professionally taken or provocative, but the description of what she's looking for in a partner is vague.
It could be a scammer, often a man, using photos downloaded from the internet in the hope of sucking in as many victims as possible. So you've missed the first warning sign and are corresponding with an attractive young lady from Russia or Eastern Europe. She writes gushing, emotive emails but do your questions often go unanswered? Does it seem like she's not reading your letters? It could be a scammer using template emails sent to dozens of men.
After a few emails or even a few months she professes her undying love for you. Love is, generally, an acquired feeling but someone you've never met claims to have given her whole heart to you. It could be a scammer setting you up for the big hit. The scammer comes to the crunch, requesting a sum of cash.