Beware Russian Web-Order Brides,
CBS News - April 14, 2005
He says his job as a Moscow gumshoe is right out of the movies.
His name is Vladimir, an undercover detective hunting down
Russian women who bill themselves online as brides. As CBS
News Correspondent Thalia Assuras reports, their prey is American
"They suck out $3,000 to $5,000, then simply disappear,"
"It's become almost like an industry," says Russian
detective Elena Garrett.
Garrett is Vladimir's boss back here in the United States.
A Russian bride herself, she now helps clients find out if
their online love is real or an Internet phantom.
"He gives us her name, age and everything, and we come
back in three days and we say, 'There is no such girl,'"
says Garret. "Such girl does not exist."
The scams often originate in Russia's Internet cafes, enticing
men with photos and letters - eventually asking for money
to help with visas and airline tickets. The U.S. Embassy in
Moscow hears from the jilted every day.
"I'm a little surprised at the sheer volume - three
to four a day is pretty significant and you have to bear in
mind that we're probably not receiving all of the complaints,"
says James Pettit, the U.S. Consul General in Moscow.
The State Department calls these "Boris and Natasha"
scams: a lonely bachelor - say here in Arizona - thinks he's
romancing "Natasha," falling in love, but it turns
out "Natasha" is really "Boris."
In Tempe, Arizona, Steve Coffman believed he was approached
by a woman on an Internet dating service.
One of the amorous e-mails sent to him read: "I feel
you Steve, we are one in heart, spirit, soul mates."
"I was pinching myself to see if I was awake or if this
was a dream, you know," says Coffman.
He discovered his soul mate appeared on multiple Web sites
under multiple names but not until he had given away his heart
and his cash.
He sent her almost $2,000.
"One big warning, do not send money for visa and tickets,"
But thousands do and that keeps detective Vladimir very busy.
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