So, hot Russian spy Anna Chapman has stolen your heart, but before you wire money to Moscow or shell out serious cash to fly a mail-order bride to the United States, learn how to identify a Russian bride scam. A little extra detective work now can save you from being duped. Your Russian bride might not come with the same Bond girl mystique as Ms. Chapman, but at the very least, make sure she is the real deal-not a secret agent.
- Phony Seals of Approval: Watch out for phony "Better Business Bureau" or similar logos on Russian bride websites or advertisements, warns Vita Steel in "The Russian Dating Bible." Like a spy disguised in dark glasses, those logos might hide the true identity of the organization: a scam. Visit the BBB website and see if the Russian mail-order bride agency has truly earned those seals of approval. If not, you just blew its cover.
- The Price Isn't Right: If the Russian bride website or advertisement lists the wrong price for a U.S. visa, make like the Cold War is still on and disengage, advises the U.S. Embassy in Moscow. Chances are, the site just wants to scam you out of your money.
- Russia's Next Top Model: No doubt you fantasize about a mail order bride that looks like the latest crop of Eastern European top models, but the U.S. Embassy in Moscow warns never to get taken in by slick photographs. If your potential Russian bride's portrait looks like she swiped it from Karolina Kurkova's portfolio, your mail order bride is probably a mail order fraud.
- Play Detective: Use the same detective tactics you would use when shopping on an unknown website. Search the web for the Russian bride agency. Type quotation marks around the name to ensure the search engine tracks down the right one. If nothing comes up, that may spell bad news, says Vita Steel, author of "The Russian Dating Bible." At the very least, it means nobody knows about the agency, so you won't have the chance to hear horror stories or glowing reviews.
- Love at First Letter: If a girl told you she loved you on the first date, you would run screaming for the hills. Why act any differently with a mail order bride? Never fall for the "love at first letter" Russian bride scam, advises Ericka Johnson, author of "Dreaming of a Mail-Order Husband: Russian-American Internet Romance." If your potential bride falls head over heels after your first letter, she might be trying to lure you in for the kill.
- Damsel in Distress: If your potential Russian bride suddenly needs a cash infusion to make it out of Russia, it could mean she wants to rip you off. If she demands the money through one company or method, be doubly wary, warns the U.S. Embassy in Moscow.
If your Russian mail-order bride sends you a scan or photocopy of her "visa," the U.S. Embassy in Moscow can check to make sure it’s the real deal. Email the image to FPMM@state.gov for assistance.