The scammer will later explain that she’s from Russia but couldn’t select it as an option on the dating site.
In the first few letters the scammer will say what a good woman she is and how hard life is in Russia.
The period from first contact to first cash request could be a few days or a few months but regardless how long you've "known" the person, a request for money is a scam.
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Scammers use services like Western Union because it is all but impossible to track the recipient of the money which can be picked up anywhere in the world.
A scammer could be a man or woman operating solo, posing as an attractive young lady, or part of an organized scamming operation.
Such operations have been known to hire young Russian women to act as the voice on the other end of that romantic phone call.