There's a dark side to international dating that you have to acknowledge if you're serious about looking for love abroad. The potential rewards of international dating are high, but so to are the risks if you don't know what you're getting into.
The purpose of this post if to help you understand what you're getting into, so that you can spot and avoid dating scams from a mile away. While scams can come in all shapes and sizes there are 3 major categories that they tend to fall into. In this post we take an in depth look at how the scams within each of these categories works.
Let's get into it.....
1) The PPL system (a breakdown)
The front end: dating and marriage sites
The master site is the store front of the entire PPL operation. These are the many Russian, Asian, and Latino bride/dating sites you're probably all too familiar with. They pose as a legitimate dating site, and it's their job to get you (the western man looking for love) signed on to their site and writing as many letters as possible.
This is were the "Pay per letter" name comes from. It's always free for a user to browse women's profiles and pictures on these sites. If you want to contact them however you have to pay a fee.
Sometimes this fee is masqueraded as a "translation fee". Often a user has to purchase "credits". Each message, email, or video correspondence will cost a certain amount of credits. Some sites also try to maximize their profits by allowing men to purchase gifts like chocolates or flowers for a lady they're chatting with.
These websites are the top level of the whole operation. They mostly find their customer base from online ads, Google searches, and even the occasional commercial tv spot. The master sites handle and process payments from men and then pay commissions to agencies, which are the next level in the system.
The local agent
Next in line are the local agencies. The master sites pay a commission from their PPL fees to the local agencies. In return the agencies provide the dating sites with women's profiles and people to operate them.
What do I mean by people who operate a profile? Agencies find attractive women (usually through online job ads), and pay them to use their pictures and profile information. The agencies then hire writers/translators to communicate with men who contact the posted profile. These writers pose as the women in the picture.
If the woman providing the pictures has a decent English level an agency may hire her to communicate as herself. But more often than not the agency will have more than one writer working with any one individual profile. The woman will get a commission from the agency on revenue from her profile, and the writers will also a get commission for the fees men pay during their correspondence.
It's not uncommon for an agency to rent out a profile to multiple sites, which is one reason you may find an identical profile on several different dating sites.
A Closer Look:
A sample job ad w/ translation snippet
"We are seeking attractive girls... for cooperation with our agency and receiving stable income....The essence of the work is to correspond with foreign men on a dating site (no intimacy!). The foreigner pays to the site-company to use the services of the marriage agency, i.e. has the ability to communicate with the most beautiful girls in the world!..... Men like to send gifts, starting from flowers, Iphones, tablets, photo cameras, and ending with precious stone jewelry. Girls who work earn from 300 to 3000 dollars a month!..."*
*Photo & translation credit to Elena's Models blog
Automated message bots
Agencies and writers even go so far as to use bots for initial communication. Bots are software systems or plug-ins that send automated emails or messages on behalf of a woman's profile. These bots are mainly used to make initial contact and draw men into communication with the actual writers.
When bots are combined with a team of letter writers it's not hard to have hundreds of western men communicating with one profile. You can find links to two companies providing bot services here and here.
A Closer Look:
Scott from Westernwomensuck.com made a bogus profile on a site and was messaged by bots:
"Height: 5′ 4″ (163) with a weight of 326 lbs (148 kilos)
I even put that I had a kid born in 1967
I then put down hobbies as group sex and collecting beer cans.
I wrote that I am in a wheelchair and that I have AIDS.
In the “about myself” box I wrote that I had murdered my first wife and I was just released from 30 years in prison.
CERTAINLY, I WON’T GET A SINGLE EMAIL!
The pop ups started almost immediately...."
Read the full article here.
The letter writers
As we continue down the scam funnel next we find the writers. As we said before writers are hired by the agencies. Writers are usually women, but when demand is high men can be hired to play the part as well.
Writers are trained and encouraged to hook men into long drawn out conversations so that they can milk as many correspondence fees from them as they can. The more a man talks with them on the site the more money they make.
On the off chance that the woman you writing to is actually the one in her online profile, remember that she is paid to be nice to you. Her goal is get you to talking to her as long as possible.
Videos are no guarantee against scams
Some PPL dating stites are utilizing video chat features as well as short introduction videos. These both help feed the allusion that the girl you're talking to is real. But agents and writers have made a workaround for this. The introduction videos aren't much harder to get than photos. For the live video chats agencies prerecord the woman having a video chat and broadcast it, while a writer writes text in real time pretending to be her.
This has led to men having to ask women to do a specific action in a video chat (like hold up two fingers) to know she is actually live. Even if she is life she is probably being paid per hour to chat with men like you.
The bottom feeders ("brides")
So what happens if the man actually decides to come and visit the lady he's been communicating with? Well that's when the women behind the profiles make an appearance (or not). When a man reveals a serious intent to visit, the agency and or writer will contact the woman from the profile pictures (if she's not the professional writer he's been communicating with). She can then meet him upon arrival. Usually one of these scenarios then follows:
1) There's been many a story where a man has been communicating with a women for weeks, months, or maybe even more than a year and when he finally decides to travel to her country she is no where to be found.
In this instance he was probably talking to a hired writer the whole time and the actual woman either doesn't know about him or has no desire to meet him.
Textbook example of a PPL scam victim
2) The woman brings a translator (always another woman) with her to meet the man. During their dates the woman doesn't seem to know or remember much of what her and the man have been talking about for the past several months.
Both her and her translator show up dressed to the nines and constantly comment on how they want to visit a particular restaurant, club, or shop (all of which are the most expensive in town). The men is expected to pay for everything. If he refuses or is too reluctant both ladies quickly lose interest in him.
In either scenario the man leaves without the barest semblance of a relationship.
2) The romance tour system
In addition to the monstrous machinery of the PPL scam, there is another complementary system also used to take advantage of romance seeking men from the west: The romance tour.
Romance tours are often run by the very same companies who operate the sham dating sites, but there are some companies who only organize tours.
So what exactly is a romance tour?
Typically men pay the tour company a steep fee (think thousands of dollars), in exchange the company provides travel and transport to a specific city in a foreign country, where the company also organizes socials with local women.
Essentially 20 or so men are shuttled in by bus into a local nightclub full of a couple hundred local ladies. Often women translators provided by the tour company stand in the wings ready to assist men in their search forlove...for an hourly fee of course.
The men are given very little advice or preparation other than "Go to all the socials!" and "Talk to as many ladies as possible!", and so they are thrown to the wolves.
A great example of a run of the mill romance tour
The dating scam
The scam behind the romance tour system isn't all that different from the tactics of the bottom feeding "brides" from the PPL machine who actually show up and a meet a guy who writes them.
Often a lady from a social will spilt a translator's hourly commission. So she will do her best to keep the man interested and drag out their dating interactions.
It's also not uncommon for women to receive kickbacks from shops or restaurants. The women gets the man to take her to a restaurant, the restaurant over charges the man and sends a little money back to the lady.
Finally the woman can also ask the man for gifts, money for English classes, assistance for a sick relative, etc. Needless to say dating at the socials can be a lucrative endeavor for the shrewd but unscrupulous woman.
Turning a blind eye
There could be an argument that the tour companies aren't actually facilitating the scams on a given tour. They promise a romance tour and they deliver it. But you can't help but think they should take at least some responsibility to safeguard their clients and screen women or at least make it harder for scammers to operate. By and large the tour companies don't do this.
A Closer Look:
Journalist Shaun Walker after shadowing a romance tour:
"...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 impersonalized 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. Many of them come with ridiculous expectations, of course, but I am not sure that anyone deserves this treatment..."
Read the full article here.
3) The classic romance scam
This scam is as old as online dating itself, and it's not limited to just international dating sites. A scammer (can be the individual on profile or an independent group), quickly and emphatically falls in love with the user after a short correspondence on a dating site.
The scammer then takes the conversation off of the site. After awhile the scammer will start to ask for money either for travel, medical expenses, or some sort of personal disaster.
I won't camp on this scam because it's fairly common knowledge. This is the stuff of Nigerian princes and stranded would be lovers. You can read more about this common scam here.
The classic romance scam can affect both men and women across all internet dating sites
Even if you happen to be on a legitimate international dating site (yes there are some, but more on that later), there could be some classic scammers. They're aren't that hard to spot as their tactics are fairly predictable.
Is international dating just one big scam?
If you're considering looking for a serious relationship overseas reading about all these scams can be disheartening. It's sobering to discover that there's literally an entire industry designed to take advantage of people like you....or is there?
These scams are designed for desperate men
I'd argue that the majority of these scams aren't designed for honest or decent men. Yes a good man can fall into their trap (and many have), but the prime targets of these scams are desperate men.
What's not often covered when people talk about international dating is that a large portion of the men who frequent international dating sites and romance tours aren't all that genuine themselves.
There's a lot of online perverts who send pictures of their penis or ask for lewd photos from women. There's also men who are looking for a quiet trophy wife young enough to be their granddaughter. There's also the fools who actually believe that they purchase a wife from another country (that's called sex slavery btw).
And while the questionable motivations of these men don't give others the right to scam them, you can't help but feel that to some extent these type of guys are asking for it. They want something for nothing, and they end up getting nothing for something.
How to avoid scams
If you're honest and realistic, and you're searching for a serious international relationship, it's not hard to avoid scams once you know about them. As I said before these scams are not designed for you.
But now that you know what constitutes a bad dating site, profile, and romance tour...it all starts to beg the question: "Are there honest alternatives for serious men?"....
The answer is an emphatic yes.
There are honest genuine women
There are honest women in the international dating scene. Contrary to what sensational news specials and burnt out scam victims would have you believe, not all women from Ukraine, Colombia, or the Philippines are after your wallet.
There are real genuine women who are looking for genuine men. If you've fallen prey to a scam in the past it can be hard not to be cynical and bitter. I'd personally assure you, but I think there's enough stories out there of successful couples that the evidence speaks for itself.
Take heart guys. There are some wonderful women out there. You just have to know where to look...
A Closer Look:
Real life stories of successful international couples:
There are honest genuine companies
The last decade has seen a surge in reputable dating sites and introduction agencies. Some of these business have even been started by guys who themselves were burned out on a scam invested industry, before finding a serious relationship overseas.
There are dating sites that charge only for a monthly subscription and not for communication with women. These sites also have a low tolerance for scam-like activity and are quick to crack down on it. There are also introduction agencies that screen both men and women for intent to marry or find a relationship.
The best practices of these companies are raising the standard for the international dating industry. So much so that even the scam sites are forced to update their design and media in order to compete.
Recommended sites and agencies
Here is a list of recommended sites to use for finding a serious relationship over seas. These sites meet the following criteria: They charge flat rate monthly subscriptions and not PPL, They let you take communication off their site, and they have an honest reputation.
Recommended international dating sites:
Latin American Cupid
China Love Match
Dream Connections is an American based company started by the American/Ukrainian couple Mark and Ana Davis. Dream connections offers tours in Ukraine, Colombia, and Thailand.
The company is unique in that they function more like an introduction/matchmaking agency than a romance tour agency (which is good because I don't trust most romance tours).
Each tour has about 15-20 guys and up to (I think) 90 or so local ladies. The company screens both men and women for relational intent and basic background information.
They also feature a unique system where each man has a personal translator/personal assistant for the trip. The dating starts off with a series of short speed dating sessions after which men are free to contact interested ladies and go on dates apart from the group.
Diolli is an premium matchmaking agency based in Kharkiv, Ukraine. The site works with male clients on an individual basis. Women are screened and background checked. The agency favors women clients who are college educated and can speak at least one foreign language.
The agency was started by Svetlana Mukha. After working for other international romance companies and witnessing their questionable practices, Svetlana decided to start her own agency in 2008.
The agency has won recognition and awards in both the matchmaking and international dating industries.
International dating is a worthy endeavor, but you have to be smart about it. If you come waltzing onto the scene wide eye'd with a fat wallet the scam industry will do its damnedest to eat you alive.
But knowledge is power, and the more you know about the pitfalls of the industry the less threatening they become.