In the ever-changing sea of online dating websites and services that specialize in ethnic matchmaking stand apart from everything else. They exist to cater to requests, coming mostly from men, for finding a potential partner or even a wife amongst people these men attribute certain qualities to, some choosing a group based on certain features in looks or stereotypical traits of character. Either way, nowadays if you are looking for a woman from the Philippines, or Eastern European countries, or certain regions of Africa and Asia – chances are, there is an app for that.
Unfortunately, when it comes to connecting couples that stay across the globe from each other for sometimes more than 90% of the initial contact phase, with a real-life meeting only a potential possibility, it becomes clear how easy this field is to exploit. Catfishing becomes too easy, especially if the service does not offer video chats, and scams are common and abundant. And yet plenty of people still use such services regularly, for them the outcome is worth the risk, and most websites that specialize in such a field have recently started taking action to make fraud and scams much harder to perform in their environment.
But there are still those among them that not only do nothing to help people who have been scammed out of money, but are also initially designed in a way that promotes these bad tendencies. In fact, these activities lie in the foundation of their business model. Meet VictoriaBrides
The service exists to connect men (specifically western men) with Eastern European, Slavic women, from Ukraine and Russia. Once you register it makes you complete a short questionnaire about what you are looking for in a potential partner, at which point it offers you hundreds of potential matches. It actually keeps spamming you with this matches non-stop while you are active on the website. The women are all absolutely stunning, online, and willing to talk to you. As for their occupation, depending on their age they will progress from being students to having starter jobs and then to respectable professions (such as teachers, lawyers and doctors). All the pictures on the site are from professional photoshoots with flawless hair and makeup done. It looks almost too good to be true, and you are even giving 20 free credits to spend on any actions on the site, albeit at this point you don’t know what this are used for and how much value that actually is. Amazing, isn’t it?
Let’s delve deeper into what you can do with all these potential matches. Right from the start the UI elements show you that you can live chat, send emails (although “letters” would be more appropriate, since it’s just longer messages using the system’s tools), send gifts, flowers, stickers, etc. On the point of UI it can be said that it is extremely old-fashioned, lacking certain features that you would expect to have. It can be said in its defense that it is a platform aimed mostly at older men, with serious dating in mind, so let’s drop this point for now. Either way, you pick a woman you like, read her bio, which is generally short or nonexistent, and then decide to get in touch with her. Here is where those 20 free credits come in handy.
The screenshot above shows you that every time you initiate a chat with someone, that chat is going to cost you 2 credits. Per minute. So those 20 credits are good for a 10-minute conversation. What else might we use those credits for, do you ask? Well, it costs 10 credits to send a letter to a woman for the very first time, and each consecutive letter will cost you 30 credits. It also costs 25 credits to watch a single video on somebody’s profile. In fact, pretty much each and every action outside of simply browsing through profiles will set your credit score back.
These credits must be dirt cheap to buy then, might be the logical conclusion. Surprisingly enough – the first purchase you make on the site will indeed be tiny. As soon as you run out of the 20 initial credits you will be prompted to buy more, exactly 20 more for a small price of $2.99. That is nothing, you think, as you punch in your credit card numbers eager to get back to that chat you were having with a sunning blonde from across the world.
You have to keep in mind though that these 20 new credits will last you as long as the initial 20 did, which is to say, not very long. Another 10 minutes of chatting later you will be prompted to top-up your balance again. And then again, and again. All of a sudden you understand that in the past 30 minutes you have already spent 10 bucks. Oh well, you think to yourself, the conversation is going great, 10 dollars is not going to set you back financially, but topping up by 20 credits at a time is very annoying. Your friends at VictoriaBrides have got you covered on that!
After the first purchase you make an option will appear in your profile settings, allowing you to automatically top-up your balance when you run low on credits. Somebody whose chat is going great will probably turn this option on, as to not get distracted every 10 minutes. Somebody in that situation might not even realize right away that he is now being charged more per credit than he was before. The price just jumped up from 15 cents a credit to 28 cents. It almost doubled. Most of us have purchased at least some kind of services in a microtransaction world before, be it for games or service subscriptions. We always expect the price to go down when we buy in bulk. Expectations in this case are quickly subverted.
Let’s say you made the initial purchase of 20 credits, and then turned the auto top-off on. Maybe it’s your day off and you can think of worse things to spend your time on than a pleasant conversation. Just over two hours of chatting later you will be charged $70… for the second time, because the first 70 dollars were deducted from your card 20 minutes into your session. And this is just chatting to one person! Sending stickers, or letters to multiple people will drain your credit (and your bank) account that much faster.
In this example chatting for just a couple of hours are setting the client back almost $150. This is unfortunately just the tip of the iceberg.
Notice the “Validated Member” badge on the screenshot above? It indicates that the identity of that person has been checked and provided to VictoriaBrides by a “supplier”. What in the world is a supplier, you might ask? We would have to dive deep into the Terms of Service for this dating site to find the answer to this question.
The suppliers for VictoriaDates is a company that finds these women for them. They are in charge of checking their information, getting the pictures, and passing on their contact info should the need arise. They are also in charge of delivering flowers and material gifts, which you can buy (you guessed it) with credits. They are ultimately the only thread connecting VictoriaBrides with the actual brides. And if this seems strange to you, here is why.
Websites like RiOffReport.com, TrustPilot.com, Sitejabber.com are full or reports claiming that even besides the overpriced business model what VictoriaBirdes ultimately offers is a scam. The women are not real, their likeness and photos are used, but professional managers are employed to chat with clients in their stead. They will fake interest, infatuation or even love for the sake of milking their clients of as much money as possible. Insiders claimed they have quotas for this, and get a large proportion of the money men spent on the site as a bonus. A woman from this site will never agree to switch to another messenger or mode of communication, because ultimately the people you talk to on this website are only interested in you spending as much credits as possible.
It is easy to claim that the people spending money on this site are getting scammed because of their own poor judgement, but it should never be stupid or considered a sin to search for love in this world, that offers so many opportunities for people to connect with each other, while also offering so many ways for others to profit from them. Ultimately it comes down to one major point – companies and services that openly prey on their customers by employing dirty tactics and preposterous business models should be called out for it. The more people start to understand the inner working of sites like VictoriaBrides, the better the industry of online dating will be for it.