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Anonymous online dater: how I almost fell for ‘Olga’

Online dating may or may not be a familiar world to you. We welcome an anonymous guest, to share their story and warnings of the world of online dating.

It’s my hope that by sharing my story others will not be hurt by cruel and heartless criminals looking to take advantage of us at our most vulnerable – when we’re looking for love.

From Russia with love?

I began using a dating website in 2009. After a few weeks, I was contacted by a woman living in Russia. Her name, so I was told, was Olga Ivanova.

Olga introduced herself as a 41-year-old single woman who’d never married or had a family, and she was certainly very attractive from her photographs. Olga told me that much of her time was taken up by her job – working as a doctor in the local hospital in Mojga, Russia.

After talking for a few weeks via the dating website we moved our conversation offline. It wasn’t long before photographs arrived in the post, with reasonably written letters detailing her family history. She was particularly close to her mother and grandparents, as her father had died when she was young.

These letters were a little off-putting with garish colour typefaces and an italicised font, not to mention the many grammatical errors, but as she wasn’t a native speaker I let it slip. Maybe perfectly written English would’ve aroused my suspicions?

Olga also sent photographs of her dressed as a surgeon in hospital with other staff, playing around in the snow and cuddling her cat. Then, a little later, I received a photograph of her passport – so all was looking quite legitimate. Although I never managed to establish an actual address – that question was always ignored.

Dangerous liaisons

But Olga’s letters constantly spoke of love. After several months of talking in this way she announced that she would be visiting England, and asked me to meet her at a London Airport.

I agreed and a week or so later she told me she was on her way. I was sent her arrival time and date together with flight number – all of which checked out.

But, the very next day I received a desperate email saying she was stuck at the border due to visa issues and was in urgent need of money to pay legal fees. Could I forward her £300 via Western Union?

I was hesitant to do so as I knew that transfers using Western Union are untraceable – the money is collected by the addressee and that will be the last you see of it. More pleading emails from Olga followed, and my promise to reimburse her when we met in London simply fell on deaf ears. Olga insisted she needed cash – now!

With a heavy heart I refused one last time and after a final – somewhat abusive – email I heard nothing more.

Spotting the scammers

Initially, I was quite upset things hadn’t worked out, despite the fact I’d started to suspect the situation. But after time, I found it far more annoying thinking about how much time I had wasted. I soon realised that I’d managed to avoid a potentially substantial loss of money – so I decided to investigate.

Olga had mentioned her location in Russia as Mojga. A quick google search revealed that this particular town was flush with the sham dating trade. I discovered this sham trade was run by well-organised criminal gangs of men. There was no Olga – it was a male con-artist, with whom I’d been unknowingly corresponding.

After making this discovery, the photographs I’d been sent intrigued me and I began running them through the website tineye.com, a website which uses recognition technology to see if pictures you upload match any elsewhere on the internet.

Two of the submitted photographs were in fact those of a well know Russian film star – hardly likely to be known in the UK. It appears that this is a common ploy. Remember also that tineye.com will only be able to match the given picture with those on record – so a lack of a match shouldn’t be considered conclusive proof.

My advice to you

Ultimately my experience has reinforced a valuable life lesson – if it’s too good to be true, it probably is.

Genuine people have real addresses, and they don’t offer to lay down their lives for you if you’ve never met. They don’t tell you that you are handsome unless you have sent photographs.

Try to stay realistic. Never lose your heart to someone you haven’t met, and don’t be fooled by words that come easily. And, whatever you do, no matter how your emotions are affected, never ever send money to people you do not personally know.

This is an anonymous guest contribution. All opinions are the guest author’s own, and not necessarily those of Which?

Comments
Profile photo of Patrick Taylor
Member

A worthwhile warning. The internet is a vast market where the dishonest are thinking of hundreds of ways to part you from your money.

Not mentioned here is the risk of your computer being infected if you start sharing files.

Profile photo of John Ward
Member

I think we have to educate everyone to realise that almost every form of activity dependent on human desires is ripe for exploitation.

I remember a time when it was said that the best way to find a partner was to join the Young Conservatives and for many decades the workplace remained the mainstay of forming relationships but the changing structure of employment has probably altered that. Higher education might work for some. But now everybody thinks the internet must be the best way and it hasn’t taken long for the criminal mind to prey on the susceptible.

Profile photo of John Ward
Member

It seems that verification is the tricky bit, and, as the adage says, remoteness lends enchantment to the view. I have heard from people who have done on-line dating how the initial image has such a powerful influence on their further progress, because that is all the parties have at that stage on which to gauge each other. The absence of verifiable details makes it all a leap in the dark. Eventually, perhaps, the attracted people break out from the confines of the matchmaker’s website and correspond by e-mail and telephone and send each other current photos; if things go well, an actual date takes place. Meanwhile, it seems, both are hanging on to other contacts as default positions in case the favoured pairing doesn’t crystallise. It’s a bit of a Johari Window situation as the like/dislike balance [on both sides] continuously fluctuates as more and more is revealed; the worry then becomes whether there is anything significant that has not been revealed and is actually being concealed behind an apparent excess of openness. For success it seems to require great positivity and a willingness to do something quite daring as it carries a risk of disappointment. Nevertheless on-line dating seems to incredibly popular – but has it brought with it a more casual approach to relationships?

My grandparents had to content themselves with dating people from within their own tiny Suffolk village [pop. only 120 today] – now the whole world is within reach.

Member

Google Image search is a good alternative to Tineye. Make sure the dating sites are protected by Scamalytics too. It’ll never be perfect but they are good at weeding out scammers.

Profile photo of duncan lucas
Member

I dont get out very often ,usually only to get messages ,collect OAP in PO but when I visit supermarkets ,charity shops I have the type of personality that is able to smile at people, talk to them , even talk about the price of things,health, the government etc ,in other words I have An outgoing personality that can engage complete strangers . This wasnt always so I started in life as shy ,introspective , and non-communicative–life changed that and brought out my inner personality you learn that way in real life not virtual reality who are good people and who are bad . What I see now is people bent over looking at a mobile phone talking to it ( which would have got you locked up 40 years ago ) or bent over a tablet /mini computer playing games on it or surfing the web . Social skills nil so its no wonder the new generation has to go on social websites to date. I have made friends with many females and if I was not married ,even at my age I would have no problem at least having social interaction with a “girlfriend ” and I dont mean sex just the fact it makes you feel better talking to someone ,its basic human nature there are a lot of single ladies out there who are lonely and just need someone to talk to with no strings . Both parties get something out of it , we both go away thinking –well I feel better talking to someone , maybe I should have been a type of social worker instead of an engineer helping those with problems communicating with society when I have seen so many people take their own lives because of despair. And lonely people in houses that I visited to fix their phones and being honest i was offered “relations ” in my travels but turned them down as I am a loyal person BUT I felt terrible as the other person only wanted someone to hold them ,cuddle them ,show them a bit of love , .One lady still prays on my mind even after 40 years I cant get rid of it. I will go to my grave feeling ,in respect of her , terribly guilty. Life is sad enough at times without people making it worse.

Profile photo of DeeKay
Member

Well Duncan,,,,,,,,,,,,,I have written some from the heart honest posts but you good man have outdone us all I think
That Sir is one h**l of a post with honesty and a reverence for other human beings

This will stay with me

Member
Simon Hollinson says:
20 June 2017

I was also contacted by Olga Ivanova and told the same story . I had the same experiences . This time she was arriving at Manchester airport .

Please be also aware of the huge scam now with Binary Trading . Having lost my life savings to this scam and avoiding any further dealings with these companies I am still being phoned by other companies out of the blue. How they get my phone number is a mystery and a scam . I have blocked all the numbers to companies that have scammed me, but now other companies have found my telephone number .