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The intricacies of modern online dating and the scammy services that operate in this field

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If the critically acclaimed series “How I Met Your Mother” was filmed today, it would have to focus on a completely different premise other than hanging out in bars and meeting lovers through common friends. In our day and age, online dating is the thing bringing singles together, and its influence is growing each year. Back in 2017 a study showed that more than 40% of Americans found their partner online, with that number jumping all the way up to 65% for same sex couples. At the same time the percentage of matches through common friends or offline activities has dropped significantly. So up-to-date Barny Stinson would value Tinder much more than hanging out in bars.

But, as we all know, if something becomes more and more popular, there will always be more and more people trying to exploit it for personal gain. And we are not talking about apps and services charging premium fees for extra features on top of already excellent functionality (like Tinder), we are focusing on the ones that fake having any function at all, other than to syphon its victims money. We have recently been involved in researching such two services, and what we uncovered is very far from the world of online dating and much closer to the good old fraud.

VictoriaBrides and VictoriaHearts are two dating sites that claim to help western men find their true love from amongst countless beautiful women from Ukraine and Russia. At a glance what they offer is extremely promising:

  • 13 million active members, all single and gorgeous, of course,
  • 96% reply rate from women, a number so high it should be suspicious all by itself,
  • 128 bit encryption for all your actions and activities for some safe online romancing,
  • A free way of getting in touch with other members by email.

This isn’t a unique premise, there are dozens if not hundreds of sites that aim to connect men with women of a specific race or ethnicity. This is extremely popular with men, as they might find specific cultural properties especially enticing, or simply prefer women who look a certain way. Asian, Latino and Slavic stereotypes are amongst the top picks of the crowd, with these cultures putting a huge emphasis on family values, loyalty and, as a huge contrast to western women, traditional relationship dynamics as apposed to the new wave feminist tendencies. But where most of those sites do their best to actually achieve what they set out to do, Victoria sites have another goal in mind.

Photo by Pratik Gupta on Unsplash

That goal is money. Pretty much anything you can do on the websites requires credits. For every $20 you spend, you get 50 credits that you can use on chatting, exchanging mail, viewing the woman’s private photos, exchanging contact information, and sending physical gifts and flowers. If you intend to be an active user, these 50 credits won’t last you more than a day. But don’t worry about it – you can just connect your account with a credit card that will be charged automatically should you require more credits, all via that advertised safe 128 bit secure encryption. Sounds awesome, where do we sign up?

Well, before you do sign up, let’s delve a bit deeper into the rabbit hole. After we researched real cases, went through reviews and actually talked to some of the people who had used this service for a prolonged period of time, certain things came to light: all the chatting, all the flowers, gifts and romancing you do through this service yields no results, other than making its owners richer. Any conversation you have will be artificially dragged out to last as long as possible, with the girls constantly asking for actions that require credits.

Basically soft porn. Girls are programmed to get you to spend as much as possible. There is a promise to receive girls contact information after you spend enough, about $600. But it is all a scam. They do not give you the contact information. – https://www.trustpilot.com/ review (sic)

There were cases where men used the service for years trying to find love, spending thousands of dollars in the process, only to end up with absolutely nothing to show for it. This next review completely shocked us, we were able to get in touch with this person to talk about some of the things he experienced on the website, that we will talk about later. He wished to remain anonymous:

I have been on Victoria bride’s a while now and have spent most of my money but unfortunately all is happening is take and take I have since I started about 10 contact details off which none of worked always a excuse and they always want photos sent or you to view there videos all of which cost money so please stay away from Victoria bride’s also i was blocked from site without every meeting anyone so please don’t use victoria brides they are not a bit helpful and i was robbed by them of oner 14000 so if anyone can help me get justices from them please let me know here. – https://www.trustpilot.com/ review (sic)

You might be in touch with the same person for years, spend countless credits on various services the website offers, and eventually decide to travel to their home country for a final face-to-face visit, only to discover that nothing is that easy when you seek for love through VictoriaBrides. Your love interest might not even show up for the meeting after first confirming it, or there will be a mandatory translator present (who works for the website), the woman will hardly take part in the conversation at all and will ultimately do her very best to find an excuse to cut it short and leave.

I literally had one date through all of this, and she brought a translator and I was made to pay for that after everything else I’ve lost. Then She tells me she wants to meet the next day, the next day comes and she cancels, then said she had a great time on the date but she cant see me on the weekend either, and continued to make excuses. (sic)

Another example illustrates how a models profile is used to lure in potential paying clients.

On Instagram she is [redacted]. There she has 457k followers. It is most unlikely ‘she’ is on-line on all these sites 24/7 (as she appears to be)! Instead, ‘agents’ (men and women) take commission working shifts writing for the profile. They mercilessly encourage you to look at videos, each costing 50 credits (most are available free on her Instagram); write a mail; cost 30 credits, view photos in a mail; cost 10 credits (most again are available on her Instagram) as well as sending astronomically priced gifts (charged through credits). – https://www.sitejabber.com/ review (sic)

Some readers might say that premium options are the things that keep these websites afloat. Tinder and the like do have them as well, after all. These services need to pay somehow for web hosting, advertising fees, maintenance, translators(we’ll get to this later) and all the other things that should add up to quite an amount with those 13 million active female users. Some might even add that you can’t hold a website accountable for the actions of the members who signed up. After all, they have no obligation to actually continue the conversation or to meet in person if they lose interest.

This is where we move on from VictoriaBrides simply having a money-hungry business model to outright scamming its members.

In our investigation we were able to reach out and confirm the following information through three independent sources. One of them was a translator actually working for VictoriaBrides, another – an instagram influencer whose pictures populate one of the most popular profiles on the site, and another – a regular woman, who actually attempted to use the website for what it claims it intends to do – to connect with a western man for a serious relationship. All three of them wished to remain anonymous for fear of losing their job or breaching the NDA, but we combined their shared experience in the next segment.

To a more sceptical reader it will come as no surprise at this point if we claim that there are virtually NO real female accounts on VictoriaBrides and VictoriaHearts. The company openly hires models in Eastern European countries and pays for the right to use their likeness, photographs and certain other activities on the website. These models are in no way active on the website itself, a team of trained professionals is in charge of this instead.

In fact, the company is called Global Date, it is one of numerous VictoriaBrides’s partners and subsidiaries who employs translators to communicate with foreign clients on behalf of so-called “brides”. (sic)

These translators work full time, each operating a series of accounts of potential “brides”. Their job literally encourages flirting, pretending to make a personal connection and doing anything else possible to keep a potential client hooked, coming back for more and spending more money.

For each of such action a translator is rewarded by money. Hoping to make more money, translators desperately flirt and pretend that they are in “love”. This way each translator falls in “love” with a hundred or so clients per day. In order to make clients “soft” all translators trained to devise crazy stories like “my cat has a cancer”, “my granny is ill” etc. (sic)

Our sources claim that the models, whose pictures were used for the profiles, are fully aware of what is going on, but will never do anything about it because they are paid a salary for using their likeness.

I sent a gift, and received a photo of the gift, but pictured with it was an entirely different girl! Customer support response; “Girl look terrible without make-upI” I only did that the once! Direct questions are rarely, if ever responded to. https://www.sitejabber.com/ review (sic)

One case we uncovered had a client reverse search one of the pictures he was sent, find the bride’s Instagram account and immediately get blocked after he reached out, even as a passionate conversation was being held via the platform.

And after maybe a week, I get this letter from a [REDACTED], who told me that I was actually writing to him! He had been hired by a “bunch of sick Russian guys” and he was disgusted by the whole thing. He sent me internal documents telling me the truth! The photos are models, and not the people writing. Each writer gets 1 credit/text, and 5 credits/sticker, and 25 credits/video. And each writer gets $1/45 credits. (sic)

But what if amongst all this shady and fraudulent activity a real woman registers on the website in search for love? Well, it turns out that having your money continuously syphoned from your account is not the worst thing that VictoriaBrides can do to a person.

The real girls who register on the website searching for a potential partner or in search of some extra income through the system’s reward options (part of the credits spent while talking to them) become trapped in the system. The Terms of Service they have to agree to is extremely vaguely worded and basically gives VictoriaBrides and VictoriaHearts, and any associated partners, full rights to use their likeness, communicate on their behalf and represent their personal and financial interests for any and all activities that have to do with the service. Many of them are not even fully aware of this as they start talking to men, but the truth eventually comes out.

Once the truth is out many of the women looking for a partner leave the website, while the ones searching for income are forced to stay under the threat of receiving none of the money earned so far. They are forced to keep chatting with men, or even to go on personal meet-ups with men they have actually never talked to. During these meetings they can’t actually do anything because of the language barrier and the provided translator does all the talking on their behalf, while they have no clue what the conversation is about.

For women, whether you leave or stay, your information stays in the system forever, and we do mean forever – there was a hugely publicized case recently, where the profile of a recently deceased girl was being used by such a service years after her death. This terrible situation is further emphasized by some rumours of human trafficking associated with these types of business.

“How do you talk to a Dead Person?” 6/15/17 Treating a lady profile on VictoriaBrides that was injured and later died via a hit and run driver in Kiev. Messages kept coming from a woman already buried. 1000 credits must be spent on a single female member to swap contact information. – Piece from an ongoing investigation clause regarding VictoriaBrides.

At the pace the modern world is moving, it is no surprise that more and more people are turning to online dating. It is fast, convenient, and allows people from extremely different backgrounds and geographical locations to reach out and attempt to make a connection. But we have to keep in mind that in such an interconnected online world things like freedom, identity and trust are often exploited and taken advantage of.

VictoriaBrides and VictoriaHearts are only a part of the problem. Even these two websites are only a small portion of a much larger pool of dating services under the same ownership. And that company is not the only one in the field, just the one with the most outrageously transparent aggressive money-grabbing schemes. As long as there will be people willing to put their faith and their wallet to the test in search for love, there will be people who will prey on them for personal gain.

We encourage all of our readers to carefully review and research any dating solution they find interesting, before investing their time, trust and money into it.

 
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