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Email scams are probably the most prevalent method of Russian scammers. Other times they contact you out of the blue via direct email.
An email scam is simply a case where some volume operation (could be a man or a woman, and may be in Russia, Ukraine, Nigeria, or New Jersey) contacts you by email, engages you in communication, and eventually attempts to bait you into sending money. Often they will post very appealing profiles on Match.com, POF.com, or a Russian dating site like Ukraine or Russian and receive many thousands of responses.
Then at some point Russian scammers are going to hit you with some sort of urgent, heart-tugging plea for money...
"My grandmother has taken ill and will die if we don't get her expensive medicine.... OR, "I'm very sorry John, but the place I use to send you my emails requires me to pre-pay for the next 6 months and I haven't the money to be able to afford this...", OR THE OLDIE-BUT-GOODIE, "My dear, I feel so close to you and want to see you very much.
Or, in some cases, the girl writing you actually posts her own pictures.
By the way, you may notice some girls on multiple sites with matching pictures and descriptions.
Russian scammers post pictures and profiles of beautiful Russian women.
They may have downloaded the pictures of some Russian actress or model who you would not recognize, or they may have downloaded the pictures from a real girl's profile on another site.
You are her special man, and she's stopped writing all other men from the site, told her family and friends all about you, etc., etc., etc.
Or, similarly, at the airport Russia won't allow her to depart unless she leaves a sizable cash deposit to ensure her return. I hope I'm not being too subtle or ambiguous :-) So by following this simple rule you will never lose money to these kinds of Russian scammers, but fortunately I can give you a few more characteristics of an email scam so that you can recognize it as a scam long before the punch line and save you any significant time or emotion on these scammers. Between these telltale signs you can easily eliminate nearly any risk of email scams.