ASCL Advisory on

Russian Wife Scams

Issued in the public interest by
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Asian School of Cyber Laws on 18 Sep 2012

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In these scams, the victims are chosen from popular social networking sites like Orkut or Facebook. The preferred targets are usually single males. The first contact is with emails, where the fraudster sends an email with an attractive looking photograph telling the victim that she found his profile attractive. She usually gives some information to introduce herself and asks for similar information from the victim. The unsuspecting victim, now already curious to some extent, replies with information about himself. This is the beginning of a communication process which may last from 6 to 15 weeks during which the fraudster progressively familiarizes herself and moves to a fair degree of intimacy with the victim. The communication then typically progresses to a point where the victim and the fraudster want to meet to take the relationship further. Usually, the fraudster becomes ready to travel to wherever the victim stays. In rare cases, she may ask the victim to travel to her location, in which case, these scams take a more dangerous turn as the victim then is in a real danger of being kidnapped in a foreign country for ransom. In most cases, however, the fraudster showing her willingness to travel is common. She then lets the victim know that meeting may not be possible since she does not have the requisite funds for travel and visa, displaying helplessness and inevitability. By this time, the victim is ready to send her money to help her out. Once the victim sends her money, the scam is complete. On one pretext or the other, the fraudster keeps siphoning money from the victim till he realizes that he is being defrauded. Since these frauds mostly originate from Russia, the name Russian wife scams. Given below is an example of a typical Russian wife scam beginning with the first email from the fraudster accompanied with a photograph:

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Hi This sender is DomainKeys verified "stepinlife7" <stepinlife7@yahoo.com> Add sender to Contacts "ROHAN" <rohan@yahoo.com> 152337248_huge.jpg (27KB) Hello!!! I liked your profile and would like to get to know you better. I will tell you more about myself below. First of all my name is Larisa I am single and have no any children. As for my work, I am a manger in the telepohne company. I am 27 years old and my birthday is on 16, August. I live in city Novocheboksarsk, it is little city in Russia, my city, not so big, but it is very beautiful, it is located on the Volga river bank... ohhh, I know you are surprised, in my profile I wrote your country, I did it because I am not sure that a lot of men in your country make a search of women from Russia. Two my girlfriends married and left Russia, now they live in Europe, so I decided to get acquainted through the Internet. I will not write a lot today and if you are still interesting I hope to hear from you soon, tell me more about yourself and send me your picture, here is a picture of me so you can see how I look like. Have a good day, bye Larisa

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Once the victim replies, the mails gradually adopt a more familiar tone leading to intimacy. Each email is typically accompanied with a photograph of the fraudster slowly establishing a level of trust till the point of time the victim trusts the fraudster enough to send money to her. Given below is an email showing intimacy in its tone at an advanced stage of communication, again accompanied by a photograph:

Hi This sender is DomainKeys verified "stepinlife7" <stepinlife7@yahoo.com> Add sender to Contacts "ROHAN" <rohan@yahoo.com> 152337250_huge1.jpg (30KB)

Hello my dear!!! I would like to tell you that your letters bring me much joy and make me happier day by day! You are the dearest man to my heart, I am always looking forward to your letters. When I received your letter today, I was very happy. We are far away from each other now, but I am sure that we need each other, I am sure that the fact that we’ve met was meant to be. Who knows, may be we are two halfs of one? ;) I can’t find words that can describe my feelings to you, you are making me the happiest woman in the world! Sweetheart, I would like to thank you for your love and care, I know that you are serious and sincere with me, from my side I’ll try to do my best to make you happy. Because deep in my heart I feel that you are a very special man who is dear for me so much! Have a good day and take care, honey... With hugs, Larisa

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Finally, a stage is reached where the fraudster makes it apparent that till the victim sends money, she will not be able to travel. The email below clearly shows her desperation and helplessness, at the same time not directly asking the victim for money, a clear psychological ploy so that the victim is induced to fall for the scam:

Hi This sender is DomainKeys verified "stepinlife7" <stepinlife7@yahoo.com> Add sender to Contacts "ROHAN" <rohan@yahoo.com> 152337255_huge4.jpg (37KB)

Hi honey, I wait for the day of our meeting more and more day by day and can't stop thinking about that. Me, as I told you before it would be not so easy to get a tourist visa for me, but in the travel agency they told me that they will help, but there is a one problem it will cost me 300 USD, honey. I see that I don't have enough money to pay. Dear, I am little upset today, and not sure what to do honey, I am not going ask you for any money or help. I just want you to know how I wish this day and how this is serious and important for me, and I don't want that the problem because of money will stop this for us, but I also understand that sometime we can't control our life.

Because of the nature of these frauds, most victims are too embarrassed to approach law enforcement agencies. For those that do, investigation begins with retrieval of IP address from email headers to track the physical location of the fraudster. Most of these IP addresses show the physical location to be in Russia. Again, for all practical purposes, investigation does not proceed further.

18 September 2012

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Director, Asian School of Cyber Laws

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Debasis Nayak,

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