Why do men fall for Internet Dating Scams?
25 March 2008
According to the British newspaper, the Daily Mail many hundreds of British men are being scammed each year by Russian criminals from a small city near the Ural mountains.
Yoshkar-ola (the Red City) is a city of nearly 300,000 people which used to be known for it's industry. After the collapse of the Soviet Union the city became associated with the transport of counterfeit goods.
But today criminals in the Red City are known for a different type of counterfeiting, for Yoshkar-ola has become the center for a $100m trade in Fake women.
The scam is pretty simple. Criminals place pictures of women, often Russian pop stars and models not well known in the West, to internet sites offering Russian Girlfriends to westerners. The sell is almost always the same, "My homeland is poor. I am not attracted to Russian Men, they all want one thing and I do not think they are interested in starting a family. I want to find a way to leave my homeland and settle down with a nice western man."
If it sounds too good to be true it's because it is. Western men are making contact with these virtual women in their thousands. For each the story is much the same, the exchange of emails begins. "You so sound so nice, I think you are not like other men. I so much want to be with you, to cook for you, to love you in the mornings and the evenings. Is it OK if we sleep in the same bed? I think we will have so much fun together."
Eventually, one way or another, the request for money will come. "My mother is sick in hospital, I can't get medicine for her" or "I can come to your country but I cannot afford the visa or airfare". Needless to say, once the money is sent the emails stop abruptly.
As an outsider it's easy to say that the victims of these crimes were gullible fools but the truth is that the majority of them are professional middle aged men who have successful careers and good incomes. In other areas of their lives they are shrewd, smart and not easily fooled.
So what is going wrong? Why are they so easily drawn into these scams? There are many factors at play. First, the profiles of these "ghost women" play into our rescue fantasies - The beautiful princess trapped in the tower all we need do is rescue her to win her love.
Second I think Western men are all too ready to believe that the cities of the former USSR are depressing, crumbling hulks overflowing with beautiful women while the men are brooding, dangerous mafia-types or hard-drinking brutes who do not appreciate or properly treat their women.
But stereotypes don't explain it all. As one criminal behind the scams says :
...These British and American men think they can exploit our women. Do they think that after you've known a girl for a couple of days on the web that she's going to be lusting after you and truthfully saying "I love you" and "Can I come to your bed?"...
So what is it that makes these men look in the mirror and convince themselves that "Yes, I am exactly what this Russian beauty, 10 years younger than myself, is looking for in a man"? If it's delusion, it's a very specific one that only effects their self-image.
In fact, Dr Herb Goldberg says that successful men are taken in by these sort of scams exactly because of the traits that have made them successful in the workplace. They have "externalized" their thought processes so much toward success, acquisition and power that their emotional, sensing side is all but dormant. They don't sense that something isn't right because they simply don't have the emotional / relationship machinery to do so. They are suffering exactly the same blindness that rich elderly men suffer when they marry young beautiful women. Because she says she doesn't have any other motive than loving him he believes her even though it's evident to everyone else what her motives are. He doesn't choose to ignore these motives, he literally never sees them. For him, love is blind.
So if you are a successful middle-aged man looking for love on the internet be very careful, it may be that you are particularly vulnerable to being scammed by young, beautiful foreign princesses in need of rescue. There are ways of doing background checks and it's not unromantic to use them, it's smart.
Read more about this kind of emotional blindness in Why aren't men more emotional?