I was in a meeting where a psychic (who looked remarkable like Uriah Heep the obsequious and ‘ever so umble’ clerk from Dicken’s David Copperfield) was giving a talk.
He started his lecture by saying he was going to talk about ‘Trust’. He then proceeded to tell us that his Russian Girlfriend was arriving tomorrow from Moscow. He had met her on the internet and their romance had blossomed during numerous emails and letters.
He was clearly madly in love and couldn’t believe his luck in attracting a beautiful Russian girlfriend. He also told us that he had paid £5000 as a bond to cover her 14 day stay in this country and sent money for clothes so that she could look lovely when they met. So the reason his talk was about Trust was because he trusted that she would arrive tomorrow. He also said that the next time we saw him he would be able to confirm that his trust had indeed been well placed by bringing her along to meet us all.
At this point I just fell about laughing, real belly laughs, since I could not believe that the story he was telling us was true. I thought he was joking. And then after a few minutes of stomach holding laughter I looked up at him and realised that he believed that a beautiful Russian woman would be joining him tomorrow.
Naturally taken aback by my laughter when I had calmed down he said ‘well she is a lot younger than you’, to which I retorted ‘yes but at least I exist’.
That evening, feeling a bit guilty about my reaction, I Googled ‘Russian Girlfriend Scam’. Straightaway just by using those key words, thousands of pages popped up. These pages comprehensively explained how the scams work, down to the standard letters that are used and at what intervals.
They also outlined how men are ‘hooked’ into believing that they are talking to a beautiful Russian woman in a photo, when in fact they are probably talking to men or women who take it in shifts to reply to hundreds of potential victims in internet cafes or pokey offices.
The letters said wonderful (if standard) things about the men who were to receive them with only the introduction and ending being adjusted to tailor the letter to the recipient. It is a long drawn out process based on keeping as many men as possible ‘on the line’ for as long as possible. Then in anticipation of meeting the Russian beauty they start to respond to requests for money for visas, bonds, gifts and clothes.
One of the reasons that I spotted this so quickly was because I had come across the Nigerian dating scams before, myself. I had been chatting to someone on the net when something just did not feel right although the man sounded perfectly charming and attentive. The day after ‘meeting’ this person I was lying in bed when my intuition told me that something way wrong. I got up and Googled ‘dating scam’. That’s when hundreds of pages appeared on this very formalised scam, including the opportunity to buy your own scamming kit so that you could try out the scam for yourself.
Again there is a standard format with a standard story. The subject of desire in this case is usually a wealthy widower who lives abroad in somewhere like Canada, the USA or Brazil. The story attached to the scam is that this is a businessman who has lost his wife and father-in-law in a plane or car crash and although grieving, he is left looking after his teenage daughter. He is usually in a very high profile, glamourous and cost intensive occupation like diamond mining, film production or oil refining. They often have Portuguese or other foreign connections, which help to explain their sometimes odd use or spelling of English.
The people on the other end of the line are universally attentive and they say all the right things to make a woman feel good about herself. They totally focus on her, ask for nothing and do not mention sex. Again over a period of time often over months or even years (after all they are doing nothing else – this is their job) they build a level of trust in the woman that they exist and that they want eventually to be in a relationship with her.
After a while the woman hardly notices that the subject of her growing affections gives no personal information and quickly disappears, if pressed to follow up on a previous conversation. The potential victim keeps on looking longingly at the photo of Mr Wonderful who’s image is usually copied from knitting patterns or model agency websites and dreams of when they will be together.
Gradually over time the object of the woman’s affection will start to ask for small amounts of money just to ‘test the water’ to see if she is likely to take the bait. Once she has been hooked by sending a small amount of money and has an emotional and financial vested interest in the relationship ‘he’ will ask her to financially support a major project he is working on. The reason given for the request might be because a backer has just pulled out or it will take him a short while to put the deal together and needs her to provide bridging finance until the deal comes through. It is promised that the money will be repaid once the project has been completed. Of course this never happens since another financial crisis will beset the beloved.
By using scams like this men and women are parted from thousands of pounds at a time. I believe that these cons appeal to a basic need we have for attention and to believe that we are significant to someone. They also illustrate how little attention some people need to receive from another person real or imaginery to feel that they are in love.
If you wonder how people could be so gullible, let me tell you the end of the Psychic and the Russian Girlfriend story.
As luck would have it I came across the psychic the following week at another meeting. It was clear that he was not pleased to see me particularly since there was no Russian girlfriend at his side. However unperturbed he started to give a talk about ‘Intuition’ and told us all (a completely different group of people) what had happened over the previous week.
Apparently his Russian girlfriend had got to the airport and was carrying Russian artifacts, which had been impounded by the Russian authorities and she had been arrested. Guess what? She needed £3000 to pay the fine.
He had sent her all his money to pay for the bond and the new clothes. He had no money to send. Then he remembered that he had not completed the financial dealings with his ex wife. He called her and got her to agree that she would give him the money he needed to send to Russia by way of a final settlement.
He sat there and told us all that his girlfriend had now gone back to her village again and would be starting the process of arranging to meet up with her very shortly……
So much for trust, intuition and psychic powers.
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