This is a guest blog by Elena Petrova, Dating Coach & founder of Elenasmodels.
Profile verification on dating sites is a feature that is worth its weight in gold. It’s not hyperbole. There are dating sites that boast tens of thousands of verified profiles, with copies of documents and video greetings recorded on file. And then those sites allow manifold months-long swindles that rip off their clients for millions of dollars, while getting the first cut on the profits. This article explains how it’s done.
Fake Russian Brides with Verified Profiles
There is a whole industry of selling and leasing verified dating profiles in Ukraine, which is the primary provider for websites advertising Russian brides. In fact, joining any site promoting itself as “Date Russian Women” is likely to have mostly Ukrainian women on the site.
For many westerners, all Slavic women from the post-USSR countries are simpler to identify under the label “Russian”. (“Is Ukraine in Russia” is a suggested search phrase on Google, so the confusion seems to be common enough.)
Why is the country distinction important?
At the moment, Ukraine is experiencing colossal political turmoil, while other post-USSR countries tighten their regimes. Scams are a scary option to run in Russia with its total governmental monitoring of internet and media. One letter or call to President Putin – who is known to accept phone calls and emails from citizens – and scammers may find themselves in hot water. Similar strict control occurs in Belarus & Kazakhstan.
Ukraine in 2016 is a completely different setup. Lawlessness and corruption are abound. Governmental control over the internet is minimal. This is why internet scams in Ukraine are a popular way of making money online. (Think Nigerian romance scammers – a local underground industry that has spread its tentacles across the world.)
The preferred modus operandi of Ukrainian scammers is different to their Nigerian counterparts. Instead of grooming victims for sizable money transfers, Ukrainian swindlers go through pay-per-letter international dating sites that charge for communication. Their goal is to get regular (albeit smaller) payouts from lots of victims.
The amount of ads on Ukrainian job portals seeking employees to chat with foreigners on dating sites under another person’s identity increased by 50% over the last six months. The ads incorporate names of sites they “cooperate” with, including all the top pay-per-letter (PPL) brands of internationally-oriented Eastern European sites.
The deception is made possible by the commission structure of PPL sites:
- Male clients pay for sending and receiving each communication on the site: letters, photos & chats. They are also encouraged to send gifts through the site.
- Female profiles are set up by agents. Agents who register women’s profiles on the site are paid commission for each communication sent or received by listings under their control.
- The more chats and letters sent and received by each female profile, the more money the registering agent makes.
- It’s feasible for agents to hire employees that send lots of communications and pay them from commissions transferred by master PPL sites. It’s definitely ten times more profitable than attracting women seeking partners: the majority of women looking for love are not as active as bots and letter writers on commission.
The fact that the profile has been “verified” does nothing to protect the customer. Yes, this person exists, but it’s not necessarily them writing emails and chats.
Or, if it is them writing emails and chats (this happens, albeit rarely – pretty women have better things to do at night than entertaining single foreigners with online love confessions), then they are doing it because they want commission, and not because they like the guy and desire to be with him.
(Just one of thousands of ads on the Russian social network VK offering “passive income” to women for putting their photos on a dating site.)
How fake “verified” profiles are set up
Unfussy employees are easy to find in today’s Ukraine, with its 9% unemployment rate and rampant inflation, especially when getting paid in USD is a dream.
Today, the average salary of a Ukrainian women is only USD $200-300/month. Students, stay-at-home moms, pensioners, and other economically vulnerable people are eager to get paid for simply typing phrases on the screen.
Earnings from men’s payments for letters and chats are split by Master PPL site with agents, who register profiles of the women. Rogue agents hire models and writers to pose as “brides” seeking relationships. Such profiles generate much higher amounts of communication, boosting the agent’s commission.
The 4-tier scam of fake Russian (Ukrainian) brides
1. Pretty young women are paid to pose for photos (these positions are advertised as “models”). They are promised percentages from the income their profiles generate & gifts that men send. They must provide their identification and film a video greeting, forming a “verified” profile. Girls are scheduled for professional studio photo sessions: given makeup, clothes & told how to pose. Photos are routinely retouched in Photoshop. “The rights to the photos belong to the agent,” the ads insist.
Agents entice girls with tales of foreign men sending jewellery and iPhones to their pen pals. If a man sends a gift, the model is allowed to keep it. “Passive income” for doing nothing sounds brilliant to young Ukrainian girls on a tight budget. Agents further ensure girls that dating sites where their photos will be published are not accessible from Ukrainian IP addresses. Selling models’ profiles is a profitable business in itself: listings of young and attractive women are sold for up to $100/profile. (That’s about as much as a human slave is sold for, in IS-controlled Syria.)
In addition to supplying copies of her documents, the model is required to sign an agreement with the agent stating that she is interested in meeting a foreign man for a relationship. The ads specify openly that communicating with men is not required, only her photos. “The photos work on the sites by themselves,” the ads insist. In addition to gifts, models are offered one-off payments for photos ($5-20) and/or a 10-15% commission from the profile earnings.
2. Letter writers type letters and chat to foreigners (their positions are listed as “translators” in job ads). To jump start the communication, bots are used, which can be purchased through online groups on VK & Facebook. Chat bots are available for all major PPL dating sites – even the ones that claim they don’t use bots.
The letter writers’ job is to entice the foreign man and make him fall in love and keep spending money. Once an emotional connection is established, it’s likely a single man will continue paying for love confessions (letters, photos and chats).
The first letter from a girl (possibly a chat bot) is free to read. It’s not unusual on PPL dating sites for men to be flooded by chat requests from women who are 30-40 years younger than them: a 60-year-old man is getting 10-20 requests an hour from girls in their 20s, even without creating a proper profile.
Letter writers are paid USD $0.20-1 per letter and about $0.05-0.15 per minute of chat. Each letter writer is paid according to an individual agreement with the agent. The best letter writers, who can entice and keep men hooked, are paid higher percentages of income. Various job ads offer a 25-75% commission to letter writers.
This chat bot software provider boasts over 30,000 users. The bot is specially designed for use on PPL dating sites.
Trud.com features 350 jobs in marriage agencies in Ukraine. They include: models, translators and administrators who control models and translators.
3. Agents get commission for each communication from the master site that has the ability to process foreign credits cards online (which local Ukrainian agents don’t have). The local agent also cannot develop a sophisticated software program and doesn’t have the marketing budget that the master site has. Some PPL master sites pay for each registered profile (around $40) while others only pay commission for communication.
The agent hires models and translators and pays them agreed percentages (10-15% for models, 25-75% for translators) from their share of profile earnings. Payments are made either directly to the employee’s bank card or in cash. Agents have to have an official registration as a private entrepreneur or company to open a bank account in a foreign currency to receive payouts from the master site.
The percentage of income distributed to agents from the master site is not precisely known but may be around 20-50% of what the profile earns. The best agents may get higher payouts.
Job listing for an administrator of a marriage agency at Work.ua. Responsibilities include hiring and controlling the work of translators and girls, paying wages to personnel. Payment: % of earning from profiles.
4. Master sites create software with a commission-based structure of payments for communication, advertise in Google AdWords and other marketing systems to attract male clients & also accept credit cards. Absolutely every master PPL site swears that their communication is genuine and women are really interested in meeting foreign men.
Absolutely every PPL site’s name can be found in job ads seeking “translators” and “models”, in VK groups selling chat bots and letter sending software. There is no PPL site whose name isn’t used by agents hiring personnel (models, translators) as the site where they will be working.
Admin panels at master PPL sites can be also easily purchased online. Having your own agency business is just a click away!
Since the information about these schemes is not new (Russian TV program Vesti ran a feature on it in 2013), PPL sites set more rules for agents trying to keep the situation under wraps and maintain appearances.
But their own advertising materials say it with such clarity that there is a problem. A leading PPL site published instructions to agents starting with a statement: “Girls, registered on the site, do NOT work!”
Why would they even need such warnings if everything is bona fide?
We will publish part two of this guest article next week.
By Elena Petrova
Elena Petrova is a dating coach with 17 years experience in the dating industry. She is a certified Life Coach and Master, Trainer of NLP. Elena was mentored by the founder of Time Line Therapyâ„¢ Dr. Tad James and the creator of Neuro-Semantics Dr. Michael Hall. She is the founder of Elenasmodels.com, an international dating site for Russian, Ukrainian women seeking partners for relationships with 450,000 active user profiles from 190 countries. Elena has a degree in Philosophy and lives on the beautiful Gold Coast in Australia.