The United States Army has issued a warning about romance scams after a growing number of those scams have involved perpetrators impersonating a U.S. soldier. The U.S. Army Criminal Investigation Command, called CID for short, claims that many soldier identities are being stolen by scammers who then impersonate the soldier on online dating sites in order to perpetrate a scam that will eventually ask the victim for money due to a fake “emergency.”
See Also: Romance Scams Section
“These perpetrators are definitely not American Soldiers, but they quite familiar with American culture,” warns Chris Grey, Army CID spokesperson. “The criminals, often from other countries, most notably from West African countries, are pretending to be U.S. Soldiers routinely serving in a combat zone or other overseas location.”
CID reports that not only are soldiers identities being stolen for these scams, but also high ranking senior officials. The scammers work to gain trust by including as many known details about the soldier that they can dig up. Sometimes they will even set up fake social media profiles to lend the scam more credence.
“The perpetrators will often take on the online persona of a U.S. Soldier, who is honorably serving his country somewhere in the world or has previously served and been honorably discharged, then marry that up with some photographs of a Soldier off the Internet, and then build a false identity to begin prowling the web for victims,” says Grey. “The Soldier’s rank and other military details are often included in an effort to give credence to the scammer’s tale.”
Scammers prey on those who want to date (and help) a soldier, milking victims out of tens of thousands of dollars. Some victims have taken out loans or remortgaged their home to “assist” someone they thought they were in love with.
The scam starts with the scammer putting up a fake profile consisting of stolen pictures of a soldier along with personal details (including rank and any other info the scammer can dig up). The scammer then starts communicating with others, leading them on. The scammer works on getting the victim to “fall in love” with them (despite never meeting in person) and the scammer creates a fake “emergency” to get money from the victim. If the victim sends money then the scammer targets them again with another fake emergency until the victim has no more money to give. The scammer uses love and the promise of returning the money to further lure the victim.
“I get calls every week and it is very troubling to hear these stories over and over again of people who have sent thousands of dollars to someone they have never met and sometimes have never even spoken to on the phone,” says Grey. “We cannot stress enough that people need to stop sending money to persons they meet on the Internet and claim to be in the U.S. military.”
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CID has issued several tips when it comes to avoiding romance scams:
- DON’T EVER SEND MONEY! Be extremely suspicious if you are asked for money for transportation costs, communication fees or marriage processing and medical fees.
- If you do start an internet-based relationship with someone, check them out, research what they are telling you with someone who would know, such as a current or former service member.
- Be very suspicious if you never get to actually speak with the person on the phone or are told you cannot write or receive letters in the mail. Service members serving overseas will often have an APO or FPO mailing address. Internet or not, service members always appreciate a letter in the mail.
- Military members have an email address that end in “.mil.” If the person you are speaking with cannot send you at least one email from a “.mil” (.mil will be the very LAST part of the address and nothing after), then there is a high probability they are not in the military.
- Many of the negative claims made about the military and the supposed lack of support and services provided to troops overseas are far from reality – check the facts.
- Be very suspicious if you are asked to send money or ship property to a third party or company. Often times the company exists, but is not part of the scam.
- Be aware of common spelling, grammatical or language errors in the emails.
- Be cognizant of foreign and regional accents that do not match the person’s story.
Online Dating Magazine covers romance scams, in depth, in its special Romance Scams section.
The US Army is warning online daters about scammers faking soldier identities for love scams…