Russian Scammers, Russian Scammers Exposed, Russian Dating Scams
Russian Scammers Arrested in Yoshkar-Ola
When the highly educated are impoverished, a culture of scamming is bound to emerge. Russians are teased by candy behind the store window, their faces squashed up against the glass, almost tasting it. They see the material wealth of the West and know they cannot earn it by traditional means, a 9-5 job. Mathematics PHDs, the same people who earn $300,000 creating quantitative trading models for hedge funds, earn only $150 per month in Russia working as night watchmen and cleaning ladies. The meat grinder of a failed political system consumes all, and spares only those who do not follow the rules.
HYIPs (High Yield Investment Program)
HYIPs are just an old fashioned pyramid scheme rehashed for use on the internet. Russians dominate this market followed by Nigerians. They claim by depositing $1000 you will earn $100 a week for as long as the money stays in their program. Many boast fancy websites where the sucker is given his own account, resembling that of an online brokerage firm. You will in fact see your money grow, but only as digits on your monitor. After asking to cash out, the HYIP will send out computer generated emails that will stall you into thinking the money is on the way. The first letter will ask for confirmation. The second will ask for a copy of your driver's license to facilitate the transfer. The next will claim the bank is holding your money until it is cleared with the Tax Bureau. Most suckers will go through the motions for a month, until realizing they've been had. By then the HYIP is taken offline and rebooted under a new URL. The search for greedy foreigners starts all over again.
This is a common scheme but it does not pilfer such high volumes of money as the HYIPs. Most are suckered for a few hundred bucks, while the former have been known to remove entire 401k accounts from naive baby boomers.
Dating scammers generally work in "crews", with 15-25 guys involved in an operation. They range in age and hierarchy from young apprentice (16-18), to seasoned western union jockey (26-30). An apartment is rented to hook up the computers, some housing 20 machines networked through one DSL connection. Offices are never used, as the local tax inspector will always check on new rentals. Their tax collection system is nothing like in the USA, agents find you long before any money is due, in an effort to make sure you don't cheat. In their business it is of the utmost important to remain anonymous, and private housing provides that cover.
A successful crew will install a jacuzzi, and keep two refrigerators stocked with food and snacks. Hard work is rewarded with pleasure both for the sake of it, and to keep stress at bay. Most work 12-16 hour shifts, the apprentices on night shift and the captains on days. Girlfriends hang out with the crooks while they scam, and party hard together after scoring a big win. To picture the wily atmosphere fueled by youthful hormones and a ridiculous tax-free income, combine the movies "Boiler Room" with "Animal House".
Profits are generated by writing love letters to foreigners who then rush to western union thinking a desperate supermodel will soon be serving his every need. English speaking girls are often hired as "bell girls" who phone victims pretending to be the girl in the letter. Most victims are pot bellied, lower-middle class types, who can't afford a #10 American stunner, and resort to romantic arbitrage, in effect outsourcing their relationship to cheap overseas labor markets (if paraphrasing Lou Dobbs). Again the scam is fueled by the victim's own greed. Instead of settling for a homely girl, he wants the skinny 18 year old blonde, despite his own physical and financial misgivings. For this very reason male victims of romance scams rarely report the crime for fear of public humiliation.
Package and Money Transfers
An e-mail is sent to you asking to be a "transfer agent" between a Russian company and their US clientele. The job entails cashing checks and receiving wire transfers in your bank account from a domestic source, then resending the money to Russia. Compensation will be 15% of the monthly volume transferred, which adds up to $5000 dollars, wow! In addition to forwarding money you will receive packages at your house and reship them to Russia.
Who's money are you sending? What's in these packages? You are the middle man in a credit card theft scheme that is impossible without the aid of a US citizen or resident. The Russian scammers, (also working in a similar crew), hack credit card companies and merchant databases for fresh Credit Card #s and pins. These are then used to purchase goods online, be it cell phones, laptops, memory, cameras, etc.
Why can't the scammer just have it shipped to Russia directly, why does he need me? Merchants are not that stupid: Russia, Nigeria, and other scam happy nations are never shipped to unless the credit card is drawn from a Russian bank bearing the same address. They will however ship to a US address if it differs from the one on the stolen credit card. That would be you, the "transfer agent". Some crews buy the item then immediately resell it on Ebay. Once the package arrives at your house you will be instructed to send it to the person who bought it from them on Ebay, and cash the check in your bank account, which then is wired to Russia minus a 15% cut. (can you feel the criminal charges piling up?)
Eventually the credit card company will match the stolen card purchases to YOUR address, not the Russian scammers. The FBI will charge you with mail fraud, possession of stolen goods, and other niceties. The prosecutors office assumes you are guilty and does so viciously. Do not expect to get away with an oops I didn't know it was illegal excuse.