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Russian dating industry growth during last years is incontestable fact. But another well known fact is that russian dating sites are full of scam and other hidden dangers. To clear all these questions and to introduce you service I personally hold best in russian dating industry, I decided to interview Daniel Jordan, PR Manager of AnastasiaDate, Inc., leading company in russian-american introduction business.
Q: The history of Anastasia as a company. How it got started.
A: Anastasia International (AW) was formed in Winchester, Kentucky, in 1993 by Elena and David Besuden. Elena and David met through an introduction service in 1992 and were married the same year. Initially, Anastasia used catalogs to introduce profiles to men in the US. This format was used at first, because the internet wasn’t so well developed. The first AW web site was launched on Jan 21, 1997. Also, in 1997, AnastasiaDate formed a partnership with IT Online, to handle its business operations in the CIS. There are now more than 90 employees working in the both offices, handling web development and maintenance, marketing, customer service, verification and other administrative services. The US office is the primary headquarters for the company and handles the sales and customer relations for the travel services offered by AW. In 1993 AW started offering specialty travel services. These travel packages, which include tours of the cities they’re visiting, allow the clients an opportunity to meet face-to-face with the women they’ve corresponded with via AW. To date, AW has organized the travel for more than 3,000 clients. During the 13 year history of the company, AW has served more than 78,000 clients from N. America, the EU, Australia and other parts of the world. Over 77,000 female clients in Russia and the former Soviet Union have registered their profiles on AW.
Q: How do you create good matches...do you have a success rate?
A: First, it’s important to clarify that AW is not a “matchmaking” company or a marriage agency. AW’s primary goal is to provide a comfortable and secure venue where people can introduce themselves and begin a correspondence (like any major online dating service).
AW works with credible local agencies who accept applications from women. AW does not own or operate any of these agencies. This is important, because it means AW is fair and objective when choosing which agencies are allowed to submit profiles to AW for review and possible posting on our web site.
AW also provides services or “tools”, like written and spoken translation services via the AW call and customer service center. This allows the clients to more clearly communicate with each other and decide if they would like to actually meet. It’s only after they actually meet, that a relationship can begin. We always emphasize this to our clients. They shouldn’t expect to simply find a woman’s profile, send her a few emails and expect her to arrive in their country ready to be his wife. This is the “mail-order-bride myth”. Like with any relationship, it’s necessary for the couples to meet in person and start building a relationship, before they make decisions about leaving their home countries and marriage.
If they make the decision to meet, then AW can help make all the travel arrangements, including advice about preparing their tourist visas to Russia. In summary, AW provides all the tools, from A to Z to help the clients discover a new partner. Providing these services is our primary business and we feel confident we’re the best in the industry. That’s why we’ve stayed in business so long and why we have thousands of client submitted testimonials about how AW helped them find their partner in life. (Please visit our testimonials web site: http://www.anastasiacomplaints.com/)
Q: What separates it from its competitors? Strong privacy and anti-scam policy? What do you promise to your clients that other companies do not?
A: AW doesn’t really have any “direct” competitors, because no other company provides the same variety of services, which includes our unique verification process and client-data information security. It’s this level of service, which makes AW the premium provider in our industry and separates us from potential competitors.
The verification process is the heart of our anti-fraud efforts and AW has spent more than a million dollars to have it implemented. AW has a two-phase process of verification. The first phase is to contact each woman who would like to have her profile listed on the AW site. A profile will not be posted, until our VBP agents (Verify By Phone), have contacted the woman directly and verified all her contact details. In this phase, the VBP agent has the authority to deny a posting if they feel something is not legitimate. All the VBP agents attend special training, prior to conducting verifications.
The second phase starts after the women start communicating with our male clients. After they’ve written some correspondence, our VBP agents again contact them by phone and ask them to detail their most recent communication. For example they might ask, “Did you recently speak with a man named Tom, if so, where is he from?” All the communication between our clients goes through the AW system, so we are able to constantly monitor for potential fraud. AW has even developed special software that flags suspicious correspondence, for example, emails requesting money. Our VBP agents contact all the actively communicating profiles at least once a month. They also open investigations anytime we receive a complaint from a male client.
Again if the VBP agent has any suspicions, the questionable profile will immediately be frozen for investigation. If it’s determined that the profile is fraudulent, it will be deleted and refund credits will be issued to any clients who were affected by the fraud. These are very strict methods, but this is what makes AW so special. Potential fraudsters know how strictly we run our operations, so many simply avoid our site. This is already a victory for us and well worth the large investment.
Q: How do you view the business of mail-order brides? Is it mostly just scams and why is it prone to scams? Are we seeing more scams out of Russia or the US?
A: First, the business of “mail-order-brides” really doesn’t exist. Any company that says you can simply choose a wife online and have her delivered to your house, is misleading its clients. It’s an unfortunate term that has been closely linked with our niche within the online dating industry. Many of our clients find us on the internet by searching via the keyword, mail-order-bride. This isn’t because they really want to “order” a bride; it’s just the term they constantly hear in the media. We’re working hard to move away from this term by always making it clear to our clients and the media that such a service doesn’t exist and that AW is a venue for introduction, not matchmaking and bride ordering.
Our experience over the last 13 years is that the vast majority of woman in Russia seeking correspondence with men in foreign countries are sincere in their efforts. The fraud is mostly coming from the agencies and introduction companies (web sites) that take advantage of the women’s trust. They do this by sending fake messages and requests for money from the real profiles of women. Many times it can take months before a woman knows that her profile has been misused. By this time, her profile has been “blacklisted” for fraud and her chances of actually communicating with someone are reduced to almost zero. In these situations everyone loses, the male client, the woman and all the companies like AW who are trying to provide an honest service.
Fortunately, it’s not as common as the media would have the general public believe and efforts by companies like AW are making it harder and harder for these criminals to find a place to operate. Russian law enforcement is also very active in tracking-down these criminal sites and agencies.
Our entire industry is unfortunately prone to scams, because it’s an opportunity to prey on people’s most vulnerable emotions. It’s interesting to note that Match.com and Yahoo Personals, two of the largest online dating companies in the world, both have lawsuits against them for fraud. Of course, they’re innocent until proven guilty, but it show’s that these “scamming” accusations aren’t just limited to “Russian Mail-Order-Bride Services”.
Q: What needs to be done to improve the situation so that customers are protected AND so are the women who go to the states. (You mentioned a new US Congressional law that was recently passed)
A: AW has already implemented a verification process to help protect our customers. This is an elaborate and expensive process that includes both advance technology and specially trained staff. We feel our verification process is the best in the industry and currently provides the highest level of protection in the industry. Law enforcement in Russia is also playing a major role in protecting both the foreign and domestic clients. If convicted of this type of fraud, a criminal can face heavy fines and time in prison.
The US Congress recently passed the, “International Marriage Broker Act” and it went into affect on March 5th, 2006. The law protects the rights and safety of foreign women, who emigrate into the U.S. as fiancés or wives of men living in the U.S. The main implication of this legislation is that 1-129F Fiancé and K-3 Spousal Visa petitions will now require that the petitioner provide information regarding any criminal history for specified crimes, including violent offenses, domestic abuse or sexual assault. (The Russian women are already required to provide similar criminal background information during the US visa application process).
AW is already in compliance with this legislation and we support any legislation that could potentially protect one of our female clients from a bad situation. Details about our compliance and how it affects our clients is available on our web site
Q: What is the whole process like? (I would like you to take me through the whole process of what you do with your customers.)
A: The process is not complicated and really isn’t much different than your regular online dating experience. The main difference is that AW must offer its client a more sophisticated service, because of the cultural and geographical challenges. In doing so, we definitely offer a more complete service versus a typical online dating service.
The process begins from two-sides. For the male clients, it begins when they decide to become a free member of our site. When their membership has been accepted they’re allowed to purchase credits and begin correspondence with any women’s profile they find interesting. Each letter costs one credit. This is because each message is translated into Russian and the reply they receive is translated into English. It’s that simple.
The women’s process begins when they decide to register their profile online or visit a local agency that is approved by AW. The majority of women choose to use an agency, because the agencies provide them with personalized services, like letter translation, advice on foreign relationships and profiling, to help them find men who match their interest. The agency then registers their profile with AW. After AW’s VBP agents have verified the profile, the women can begin receiving and sending correspondence for free.
If two people find each other and want to meet in person, we welcome them to use AW’s travel services; however some decide to organize their own trips. AW offers the clients a chance to meet their partners in Russia or Ukraine at socials which are organized by AW and include other clients from all over the world. This makes for a relaxed environment and reduces the awkwardness. Their trip also includes a cultural program that helps them gain a better understanding of the country they’re visiting. Regardless of their choice, our customer service representatives are available anytime to answer their questions and offer advice prior to their trip. This is a resource that’s commonly used by our clients and it’s not uncommon to have a surprise visit to our office by clients just wanting to say, “Thank You”.
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