Have you ever received an email from a supposed admirer in Russia or the Ukraine? If not, then either you don’t have email or your anti-spam protection is doing a fantastic job.

It goes like this. A stunningly attractive woman, normally from Russia, has found your email address and is writing to you because she wants to get to know you in person and visit your country. After you’ve exchanged a couple of emails with her, she falls hopelessly in love with you and desperately wants to meet you. So you think: How could she not fall in love with me? After all, I guess I can be quite charming.  And importantly, who could resist, after seeing her photo?

For all women reading this post: How can you say that you don’t understand men?  You see, we really are that simple.

Well, I’m sorry guys but I’m going to ruin it for you… for all your charm, you won’t end up marrying the beautiful Russian blonde. The girl of your dreams is, I’m afraid, just in your dreams.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying you won’t meet and fall in love with someone as beautiful as this.  Just that it won’t happen like this.

This is one of the most popular Internet scams, just like the Nigerian letter, fake job offers and lottery prizes.  Yet people are still falling into the trap.

How do these scams work?

  1. As with any other type of spam, thousands or millions of email addresses are harvested and spammed.  Obviously, the more mails sent, the greater the chance of finding potential victims.
  2. The message claims to be from a girl, often from Russia, the Ukraine or other Eastern European countries, and include a photo (normally they use a model).
  3. The messages are normally written in English or Spanish, two of the most widespread languages, with poor spelling and grammar, but given their nationality –and their looks- many seem prepared to excuse that.
  4. If you reply, you will soon hear from the girl, wanting to know all about you and no doubt telling you about how she intends to leave her country.  As you get more intimate, she will suggest coming to live with you, and will send you even more photos.
  5. Then comes the crunch. Just when the girl is about to leave her country to meet you, some last-minute problem occurs (holdups with the visa, bribes that need to be paid, etc.). To resolve this, she will ask you for a small amount of money, anything from $500 to $1000. This, obviously, is where the fraud starts; the girl doesn’t exist, she is just an invention in order to defraud users.

Some years ago, this type of fraud tended to arouse more suspicion, yet now, with so many people participating in social networks (Facebook, Twitter, etc.), they have become more plausible. With so many personal profiles and email addresses in the public domain, people may think it feasible that somebody has seen their photos and has taken a liking to them.

What should I do if I’m targeted by one of these scams?

It’s normal that if you’re not aware of these types of criminal ploys, you might think that you have found true love on the Internet. So here are some practical tips that will help keep you out of harm’s way:

  • Use your common sense. Always distrust emails from unknown sources. Even if you spend half your time in the gym and a real charmer, the chances of an unknown girl from another country wanting to know you via email are practically nil…  Love at first sight across the Internet is a very remote possibility. As a general rule, you should be highly suspicious of these kinds of contacts from the outset.
  • Have a good antivirus installed that can detect spam. Many of these messages will be detected and classified as junk mail by most security solutions. This will help you be wary of the content of any such messages.

If however, you do fall victim to fraud, PandaLabs advises you to promptly report the crime to the police. Even though tracking down this type of crime can be complex, law enforcement agencies are becoming increasingly adept at dealing with cyber criminals.

You can find more information about Internet scams in Panda Security’s Press Center: top scams on the web