Avoiding Scams: Part Two–The Money Scam

The Money Scam

As I’ve mentioned, most of the women one penpal/dating sites are honest. You must be prepared, however, to use some common sense and look out for con artists.

The obvious goal of scammers is to rob you of your hard-earned money. If they can fool you with a fake picture, they’ll use different stories to start the con game:

*A sick relative in the hospital
*Medical expenses
*Burial expenses
*Money for computer use

The above expenses are indeed very common here (many of my Filipino friends have experienced financial difficulties due to the above scenarios). Though life can be hard in the Philippines, it is foolish to give money to someone you have not met in person. You simply have no way to verify the truthfulness of her statements.

The scammers that I have met are usually not very patient. They’ll start asking for money fairly quickly in your “relationship” (within the first few chats). If your newfound friend quickly brings up money (or her difficult situation), then that should serve as a warning sign. Just tell her that you cannot help her until you’ve met in person and see how she responds. Con artists will quickly lose interest if they know you’re not sending money.

By the way–scammers seeking money will be quick to tell you that they are not after money. They will be very manipulative, talking about expenses and telling you “I don’t know what we’ll do”–hoping that you will offer to send money. Young women have called my cell phone and made up all kinds of stories (“I’m here alone and I’m sick–I can’t afford to go to the doctor”). If you are a nice guy like me, you naturally want to help others–especially a young woman who interest you. Don’t take the bait! A genuine, honest woman will not expect money from a complete stranger.

Keep in mind that foreign money usually buys a lot of pesos. In other words, even requests for small amounts can still be a sign that you are getting conned. It is free money for her, so she doesn’t need to be ambitious in order to make more than she could from honest work. All she had to do was create a free email, download a free image, and start the con game.

There’s also not likely going to be any legal consequences for her actions. The government just doesn’t have the time to investigate this kind of small-time fraud. This simply ads to the temptation to get online and make a quick, risk-free buck.

Let’s say you’ve established trust over several weeks/months and you want to help her with communication expenses. Fine, but keep in mind that it should not be terribly expensive. Internet use runs about 20-30 pesos an hour, so a little money should go a long way. I’m mentioning this because scammers may exaggerate communication costs. I remember one scammer that told me she needed 15,000 pesos to rent a computer for the weekend (no one even does computer rental here, and you could just about buy one for that price). I had already figured her for a con artist at that point, so that request was just the final proof.

I’m not suggesting that you be paranoid–just cautious. Like it or not, part of your task will be to make sure your contacts are women who are honestly looking for a husband.

Remember, looking for a wife will require an investment of your time. Slowly but surely is the way to go.

Avoiding Scams: Part One–Fake Pictures



Unfortunately, there are con artists that would love to make a fool of you (and steal your money). The dating websites don’t say too much about it, and they do try to weed out fake members. Most of them have responded fairly quickly when I’ve reported a fake. Regardless, it is a very common problem that you are likely to encounter. Women simply join faster than than staff can monitor.

Sometimes the fake profile/picture even makes it to the website front page; the “featured profiles” (I spotted and reported this quite recently).

I’ve communicated with other men who’ve experienced the same thing. The con artists are sneaky and usually get a few male admirers before getting kicked off the website.

I’ll give you a couple of simple, free steps for sniffing out the fake picture scam. If you don’t follow my advice, you will regret it.

The Fake Picture Scam

I’ve seen all kinds of fake pictures on Filipina dating websites. Girls will use everything from pictures of their pretty friends to pictures of celebrities (yes, it happens–since most foreigners are not familiar with Filipina celebrities/models). I’ve had girls send pictures and forget to erase the model’s name from the image. I’ve been sent pictures that I later saw on the cover of magazines. There are millions of free images available to anyone with a computer.

Sometimes they do this as part of a money scam (which I’ll discuss in the next article). Sometimes they are simply hoping to get a man’s attention or they are just playing games.

If the picture you see looks a little too professional or too good to be true, be very cautious. Here’s a few very simple things you can do to try to verify a picture’s authenticity:

1. Swap several pictures. She should be able to show you pictures of her with family, friends, etc. Filipinos love pictures. Even if she is poor and has no camera, chances are that she has friends with digital cameras and cellphone cameras. If she only has one to show you, be suspicious. Think about it–how could she have one super-glamour picture and yet be too poor to have anything else?

2. WEBCAM. This is the best way to verify that the girl you are talking to is indeed the same as the picture. Internet cafes with webcams are a little bit more expensive, but they are not too hard to find in the Philippines. If she consistently refuses to show herself on webcam, it is a really, really bad sign (especially if she lives in one of the major cities, like Manila, Davao, etc). Whenever this has happened to me it always turned out to be a scam.

3. Be Cautious with New Members. Go ahead and send messages to new members–they are, after all, probably the most eligible bachelorettes. Just keep in mind that brand new members are more likely to be fakes–not enough time has passed for them to be caught and kicked off the website.

Don’t trust anyone too quickly. Proceed with caution.

More on identifying scammers in the next article . . .

Should You Pay to Join a Penpal/Dating Website?

Question_markSo, should you pay to join on of the “penpal” websites?

Before I answer this, let me explain that I make money/commission if you join one of the sites listed on this blog. You probably already figured that out, but I just want to be 100% up front. If you do decide to join one, I would appreciate you using my link and giving me the extra pocket change. I’m a decent, hardworking guy who does non-profit work in the Philippines. I’m also going to try to limit my banner ads to sites which are very well established (some of which I have used personally).

OK, now on to my advice . . .

Well, obviously the ideal would be for you to live in the Philippines and just meet women the “low-tech” way. Another great option would be if you have personal connections here that can introduce you to someone. But I’m assuming that is not an option for you.
You can meet women through social networking sites such as Facebook. It’s free, but it is not very efficient.

There are two primary advantages to using penpal/dating webites:

First and foremost, the women on penpal/dating sites are single and looking for a foreign spouse. Finding this combination on general social networks is relatively difficult compared to a dating website. By joining a dating website, you’ll be connecting with women who want to marry a foreigner–women who are motivated enough to become members of the site. For this reason, I have used paid sights even while staying in the Philippines. The random girl I meet is fairly likely to have a boyfriend/husband, unlike website members.

Secondly, you will be contacted by young women if you join a dating site. In other words, the searching will work both ways–something that will not likely happen on social networks. A Filipina is unlikely to start sending emails to random single men on Facebook.

Yes, the dating sites cost money (there are a few free sites, but paid sites usually have more members and are much more user-friendly). But if you don’t have one or two hundred bucks to spare, you have no business wasting a Filipina’s time (remember, plane fare will cost you more than that).

Here’s my advice for joining a site:

1. Look around: browse some members and see if you like the website. Websites put their most attractive members on the front page, so do some searching and get a better idea of the overall membership.

2. Pay 6 months to a year in advance (if that is an option). This is a much better deal financially than monthly memberships, and it may take some time to find the right girl. Yearly membership rates put your monthly costs at about half that of month-to-month payments. Remember, you are making a long-term investment if you are serious. You are not likely to marry the first girl that you send an email to.

3. Post a picture. You’ll get a lot more responses–besides, she’ll eventually see what you look like anyway–better to speed up the process.

4. Be 100% honest about your age, marital status, children etc. Women will be very understanding of your situation, but be truthful from the start.

5. Correspond with several women. You’ve paid to have access to all the website’s members–take advantage of it. Get to know several women and don’t be too quick to choose just one.

6. Read the fine print. Some Dating websites will adverstise free memberships, but this can be a bit deceptive. In other words, the site will allow you to set up a profile, but you have to pay to read or send messages. This is a way for the website to pull you in–you’ll get an email informing you that you have messages, but you have to pay to read them. Just keep this in mind when deciding on a website–plan on paying something upfront.