Marriage and Dating Scams in Ukraine
All of us dream about finding our true soulmate, and, unfortunately, many swindlers use human feelings to make money. Ukraine has a whole business network of marriage agencies promising wealthy foreigners help with meeting love of their life. Such dating websites attract with profiles of extremely beautiful, even model-looking girls, who describe themselves as well-educated, decent and faithful ladies searching for a husband to build a strong family.
However, men have to pay for every single message they open from these women, while websites strictly prohibit exchanging personal contacts. Moreover, in 99% the models on the pictures do not even write these messages. It is the job of professional translators hired by agency to maintain correspondence.
When a man decides to come to Ukraine to meet a girl who exchanged letters with him on a dating website, the real girl from photos might still not be aware of his existence at all. The “photo girl” may come to the date though (accompanied by professional translator of the agency), but actually it will be the first time she communicates with the man, because all the letters on her behalf have been written by another person. Of course, agency services of arranging a meeting and translation are also not free. Usually girls that come to such meetings are more interested in having a dinner in a posh restaurant and getting some expensive gifts than to know foreigner as a person and to plan family with him. Of course, miracles happen, and there is always a chance that suddenly you both feel a sparkle and fall in love… But it`s sure not something you can rely on.
So how to avoid being scammed in such way? Just remember that if something looks too good to be true, it is probably not true. It`s quite unlikely that a super model will fall in love by exchanging few letters (especially if she avoids to give you her personal contacts in any way possible). Avoid sending girl any money or presents before getting to know her in real life. Try to meet real girls via social media, at work, at parties or through friends – these ways of finding love are much more reliable. And even if a girl has an angel face, but asks about the level of your salary and possibility of getting expensive presents on the first date – better forget her as soon as possible.
Overpaying for Services
Making foreigners pay sky-high prices is one of the most popular scams in Ukraine. There are taxi drivers, waiters, bartenders, souvenirs salesmen, etc who tend to charge you more just because you are a foreigner and therefore they assume that you are rich. If you want to avoid that, get to know about average local prices in advance. You can ask your Ukrainian friends, people in online expat communities or check out specialized online platforms such as numbeo that provide information about average costs of services, accommodation, food, public transport etc in the city you are going to. It is also reasonable to use reliable and well-known services. For example, better use Uber or Uklon (instead of taking a taxi at the street), book your apartment in Arinbnb or booking.com, and so on. If you are in a bar or in a restaurant and pay in cash, always ask for proper change and check your bill. Sometimes bartenders and waiters add positions that you have not ordered to your bill or “forget” about your change.
As any other place of the world, Ukraine has its con artists – people that make you trust them and then just steal your wallet or other values. Apart from giving obvious advice to avoid all sorts of beggars that might try to stick to you in the streets, we will introduce you to some other popular tricks that con artists practice in Ukraine.
If you walk in the street or use public transport, some person might “accidentally” bump into you, then politely apologize and walk away. Unfortunately, after that you are likely to find out that you do not have your wallet or some other values any more. To avoid this, try to keep your values in places that are not easy to reach – for example, deep in your bag, but not in your back pocket.
Lost Wallet Scam
You notice a wallet laying in a street, and some person “suddenly” sees it at the same moment. Then you both pick up that wallet and that person says something like “Wow we are so lucky today, let`s share the money”. If you agree, a third person appears from nowhere, claiming that this is his wallet. That person will say that he needs you to show your wallet as he wants to check if you have already taken some of the money from his one. To avoid this, never pick up anything if the street, or if you already did, tell these people that you will call police – they will escape.
“I Need a Call” Scam
If a stranger in the street appeals to you with a request to use your cell phone, it is very likely that he is a scammer, and if you agree, it might be the last time you see your phone. However, sometimes people can really be in a state of emergency and need some help. It`s up to you to decide if you believe them or not. But in general, it is recommended not to tempt fate.
Skimming Credit Cards
Skimming is a popular way to scam both foreigners and locals in Ukraine. There are two main methods of skimming money from credit cards: by a person or by a device installed on an ATM.
If you give your credit card to the staff of the restaurant, club, petrol station etc, they can scan it by terminal twice: the first time on legitimate grounds (to transfer information to your bank), and the second time to copy the card`s magnetic track so that it would be possible to make a copy of it and use it in other places. To avoid this, never leave your card to anyone out of your sight. You must see what a person is doing with your card.
While using an ATM, pay special attention to its card insertion slot and keyboard where you enter pin code. You have to make sure that these parts are absolutely monolith and do not have any removable objects. Such objects are likely to be devices purposed to read and copy information from your credit card.
It`s always fun to meet new people, but being a foreigner in Ukraine, you will have to learn how to distinguish good and honest people from dangerous and mean ones. In general, Ukrainians are not super open and communicative with strangers, so if you meet someone occasionally for the first time and he/she seems to be too nice to you, it might be considered as suspicious behavior. It is safer to meet new people through your colleagues, friends and other reliable persons who you already know. We recommend being especially careful while drinking in bars and pubs. A drunk person is always less attentive, so if you had some beers or shots, you chances to be robbed or scammed in some other way get higher. Try to go out only with your trustworthy friends, and never leave your drink out of your sight to avoid becoming a victim of drink-spikers.
Sad to admit, but Ukraine is known as one of the most corrupted countries in Europe. Though many measures have been taking by government during recent years to improve the situation, there is still much to do. Any guest and local of the country can suddenly find himself/herself in a situation when he/she is being asked for a bribe. It can happen in police, in educational or governmental institution or elsewhere. No one should be loyal in that case and accept it as something normal. If you are asked to give a bribe, refuse it and persist upon your legal rights. If the situation does not get any better, it is reasonable to contact professional lawyer or even the National Anti-Corruption Bureau of Ukraine.
Forewarned is forearmed. We hope that above-mentioned tips will make your stay in Ukraine pleasant, safe and trouble-free.
Photo source: unsplash.com.