The Embassy is aware of Australian citizens which have been defrauded by bogus Internet friendship, dating, marriage and employment schemes purportedly operating from Russia and other eastern European countries. These large-scale, well-organised scams typically result from connections made through internet dating sites, chat rooms or social media links.
Once a virtual relationship develops, it is usually followed by requests for money for things such as passports, visas, travel insurance, customs fees, bribes for officials, or other fictional fees such as an Australian Government travel bond or guarantee. Scammers might also claim they have been in an accident on the way to the airport and need money for hospital bills.
Known victims have lost up to AUD35 000 from these scams. There are also reports that victims have travelled to the country only to be kidnapped on arrival and held for ransom.
In more developed scams, the scammer will pretend to be an Australian citizen in distress or will make use of what appears to be an Australian Government email address to send fraudulent emails. The message may even include fake details of a non-existent visa, scans of a visa or a passport bio-page, or documents bearing what looks like official Australian diplomatic stamps.
Other scams include websites of fake employment agencies providing recruitment and visa services for those wishing to travel and live in Russia.
Once the scammer receives the funds, communication is usually terminated, and any chance of recovering the sent funds is highly unlikely.
Check anti-scam websites - there are many private anti-scam websites which provide extensive information about the various versions of scams operating from Russia, including sites that publish the fake names and photos/documents used in such scams. You can find some of these websites by clicking here.
Verify the authenticity of an e-mail message purportedly from the Australian Embassy in Russia, advising you of visa details relating to your friend or prospective spouse by contacting our Visa Centre. Unless you have been formally authorised (and you have previously signed forms) to receive such information, the message is likely to be a fake.
If you wish to proceed in assisting someone’s travel to Australia, consider pre-paying for airline tickets directly with the air carrier.
For additional information on scams, check the following Australian Government resources:
- The Australian Government's Scam Watch Service
- The Australian Cybercrime Online Reporting Network
- The Department of Immigration and Border Protection's webpage on migration scams
- The Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade's Smartraveller bulletin on overseas scams
- The Australian Federal Police's webpage on online fraud and scams