Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Sex tourism, or travel matchmaking?

One thing about working in advertising is you always wonder what's behind some of those sleazy online ads you see as you bounce around the internet.

Here's one I saw on

Of course it's a scam, but I wanted to know how obvious a scam it was. So I went where few non-desperate people have gone before:

Okay, that's not too scary. It even makes clear on Google that it is not an escort site.

So what is it? Well, you can't get too far into that with a major breach of privacy.

There's only so much I'm willing to give up online. This is my real name, and I have a wife, a son, and a job. But fortunately others have made the ultimate privacy sacrifice in the interest of science.

According to this blog:
"As soon as you log in women will start sending you chat and email messages that can only be replied to if you are a paying member.  I can not believe with no picture or personal information some girl would text me in seconds. I think it was set up this way so guys would sign up for their premium service."

Someone else wrote:
"I've registered 8 (!) male accounts on on the same day. Without photo or any demographics info, exept country. So I suppose such account should not be interesting to any girl. All 8 my fake users got 5 messages from THE SAME 3 girls in ~30 minutes after registration. All those girls of course were very beautiful and had profiles with photos, small problem :) They all were sending almost the same message to all users. For example all users got a message from a girl called Perla. My fake user from France got a message "invite me to France", fake user from Spain got message "Invite me to Spain", etc. So Perla asked all 8 fake guys to invite her to their native country, mentioned in profile. Another one girl Eva also sent message to all users: "Have you been to Kiev/Ukraine?". Also two more girls with russian names sent messages immediately to all users. I don't know what about are those messages, because premium membership is necessary to read them."
So it's basically a porn chat scam. Meh. But more scary exploitation of lonely guys is afoot:
"I met a girl from Belarus on this site; her name there is Baby_MUR. Her actual name, according to what she told me is Evgeniya Serzhan. I met her and for 2 weeks she gave me the impression she was truly interested in me and wanted to travel to the USA. I offered to buy her plane ticket if she could get the visa. She told me it shouldn't be a problem, but a couple of days afterward said the cost would be 150 eur and that her parents wouldn't help her. She asked if I could help and told me maybe she could do something in return for me. I told her we would work together and figure something out. The next day she told me she would borrow the money and go to the Embassy to apply for the visa and that was the last I heard from her. She will now no longer answer any of my messages on the site, answer her phone when I call, nor will she write me back when I send her e-mails. It seems obvious to me that all she wanted was my money and when I didn't offer to send her the 150 eur she decided to drop me and look for someone she might be able to sucker. In short that makes her a romance scammer/gold digger. By the way, I looked at the site for the US Embassy in Minsk and the site shows the cost of the visa to be $140 USD--a far cry from 150 eur, which is about $200 USD. Furthermore, she told me they would process the visa for her there, but the site information shows they are no longer processing tourist visas in Minsk and persons wanting one would have to visit Embassys in other countries for processing. Beware of this site because if there is one like this there are bound to be others as well."
Sad, sad, sad. But what about the girls? Are they real? The site itself asks for a login before clickthrough, but Google seems to have no problem accessing lower level pages directly:

I have no idea if these women are real or not. I don't really want to find out. But I do hope that none of them are being trafficked, or forced into the sex trade through poverty or circumstance.

The guys, by the way, are a little more shy...

Well, some of them...)
Why should I care? I guess there are two things the internet has done to me. First of all, by bringing me news of sex work, tourism, tragedy and scams from around the world, it has made me more aware of the underbelly of human nature. And second, even if I wanted to be blissfully ignorant, these ads would continue to intrude on my world with a reminder of theirs.

By the way, the site owner (it's registered in Lithuania) denies any liability for any real people who may get involved in this particular type of travel.

"4.1. This Site is a venue. Services provided by the Company do not include the introduction of users to one another. This Site is merely a venue for members and/or viewers to learn about one another and, if they wish, arrange stays with one another. The Company is not involved in the actual contact between members and/or viewers . As a result, the Company has no control over the conduct of members and/or viewers or the truth or accuracy of the information that members and/or viewers post on the Site.
4.2. The Company cannot and do not confirm purported identity of the members and/or viewers . Although the Company provides tools intended to assist you, you are responsible for determining the identity and suitability of others with whom you may match by means of this Site. The Company does not endorse any persons who use or register for the services which are provided by the Company. The Company does not investigate reputation of the members and/or viewers , conduct, morality, criminal background, or verify the information such of the members and/or viewers may submit to the Site. You shall communicate directly with potential hosts and guests through the tools available on the Site and to take the same precautions you would normally take when meeting a stranger in person for the first time.
4.3. You shall be solely responsible for your interactions with other members and/or viewers of this Site. The Company will not be responsible for any damage or harm resulting from your interactions with other members and/or viewers of this Site. The Company reserves the right, but has no obligation, to monitor interactions between you and other members and/or viewers of this Site and to take any other action in good faith to restrict access to or the availability of any material that the Company or another members and/or viewers of this Site may consider obscene, lewd, lascivious, filthy, violent, harassing or otherwise objectionable.
4.4. Because this Site is merely a venue, in the event that you have a dispute with other members and/or viewers of this Site, you release the Company and officers, directors, members, employees, agents and affiliates of the Company from claims, demands and damages (actual and consequential) of every kind and nature, known and unknown, suspected and unsuspected, disclosed and undisclosed, arising out of or in any way connected with such disputes.
4.5. In-person meetings which are held by groups of interested members and/or viewers are not sponsored or organized by the Company. Members who organize meetings should make clear in their announcements, invitations and signage that their meetings have not been organized or approved, and are not run, by the Company. The Company cannot guarantee the quality, organization or safety of any in-person meeting (whether or not sponsored by us). Members attend meetings at their own risk."
Good luck with that...

1 comment:

  1. There is no happiness for the person who does not travel. For Indra is the friend of the traveler, therefore wander!