Online Dating Scammers Pose as U.S. Military Personnel

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ACFE Insights

Embassy Kabul frequently receives inquiries from people who have been victimized by Internet scammers. These scams are attempts by con artists to convince you to send them money by developing a friendship, romance or business partnership online, and then exploiting that relationship to ask for money. The most common scam we see involves calls, texts, or social media messages Facebook, WhatsApp, Viber, Kik, dating apps, etc from a person claiming be a U.

U.S. flag. An official website of the United States government. Here’s how you Through an online request (You’ll first need to create an account.) Using its Hero or medical fees. Learn how to avoid military romance scams.

From midnight until dawn most days, Tracee Douglas sits in the garden of her Bundaberg home with her iPad in her lap, and her iPhone and cigarettes beside her. With only the knock-knock-knock of geckos for company, she scours the web for clinching evidence to convince women who are sending money to “soldiers” abroad that the men they love are fakes. She’s lost count of the number of scams she has stopped since setting up her private Facebook page, “Military Scams: The Fight Back”, but they’re likely to be in the thousands.

A woman on a mission, Douglas tries to grab as much sleep as she can during the day – she gets by on a part-time job – shuttering her home against the harsh Queensland heat and glare. Douglas, 49, set up her Facebook page more than a year ago, after a friend bluntly told her she could either “lie down and die, or fight back”. It now has members, who track, trick and bait scammers. Some report fake military profiles to site administrators who remove them, but it’s a Sisyphean task.

As soon as an imposter is removed, a new profile pops up minutes later with the same photograph and a new name, often contrived by changing a single letter. Still, Douglas’s switch from victim to vigilante has saved her sanity and her self-respect. A former TAFE teacher and beautician who says she was once admired for her business success, Douglas’s life changed irrevocably when a man claiming to be an Afghanistan-based US Marine called “Robert Sigfrid” contacted her on a dating site called Are You Interested?

The something’s photo and profile made him look like a match made in cyber-heaven.

ARMY SOCIAL MEDIA

Yet, many are asking, how do I know if a soldier is real? Well, first of all, many people say that if you have to question it , you probably already know the answer. Still, far too many people fall into this trap and delude themselves into thinking that they love this person and that this could never happen to them. There are some surefire ways to know if a soldier you met online is real or not.

All of these reasons are lies.

When you think you’ve met the perfect partner through an online dating website, Thought she was carrying clothes/retirement papers for American soldier in.

On Facebook and Instagram, there are lottery scams , celebrity impostors and even fake Mark Zuckerbergs. There is also a scheme where scammers pose as American service members to cheat vulnerable women out of their savings. To find victims, they search Facebook groups for targets — often single women and widows — and then message hundreds, hoping to hook a few.

Once they have a potential mark, the scammers shift the conversations with their victims to Google Hangouts or WhatsApp, messaging services owned by Google and Facebook, in case Facebook deletes their accounts. For months or weeks, they try to seduce the women with sweet talk and promises of a future together. Eventually, they ask for money. When victims send funds, they often do so via wire transfers or iTunes and Amazon gift cards, which the scammers sell at a discount on the black market.

How to spot online romance scams

Running romance scams is a full-time job for some scammers and they can be very good at it. In reality, actual losses are likely much higher. A scammer pretends to be in a relationship with someone online in order to scam them out of money.

A recent study indicates that 15 percent of American adults use online dating websites or mobile applications. As the number of people looking to meet new people.

The growth of online dating has led to an explosion of catfishing and the combination of lust, infatuation or love means that innocent people can get manipulated or exploited. These relationships can go on for years and often end in tragic emotional or financial consequences for the victims. Catfishers can be driven by anything from loneliness to obsession or revenge. They can be motivated by the desire to live vicariously through a fake persona, to extort money from a victim, to make mischief or any number of other intentions.

Other sinister cases can involve sexual predators or stalkers who use this online anonymity to get close to their victims. There are several truly bizarre examples out there, like the girl who was catfished twice by another girl who posed as two different men. Your date looks like a supermodel Online dating scams usually start with an attractive person initiating contact through social media or dating sites.

What You Need to Know About Romance Scams

Two Army reservists have been accused of coordinating a fraud scheme involving business email compromises and romance scams against elderly women, according to a federal complaint in the Southern District Court of New York. Joseph I. Asan Jr. Ogozy, both of whom enlisted in the Army Reserve in February , were arrested Oct. An FBI agent said in the complaint that Asan and Ogozy defrauded victims and laundered their proceeds through bank accounts they had opened in the names of fake businesses.

We help keep people safe online. We’ve had cases of romance scams reported to us where people have lost substantial amounts Photos of models and uniformed soldiers are popular, however photos can be taken from.

The FBI is advising consumers to be wary when using online dating sites after the agency saw a 70 percent annual increase in reported romance scams. Cybercriminals are reportedly using online dating sites to trick victims into sending money, providing personal and financial information, or even unknowingly acting as a money mule by relaying stolen funds. Learn these tips for keeping yourself—and your financial accounts—better protected when meeting people online.

Romance scams, also called confidence scams, are when a bad actor deceives a victim into believing they have a trusted relationship and then uses the relationship to persuade the victim to give money, personal and financial information, or items of value to the perpetrator. The initial grooming phase can last for days, weeks, or even months , and by that time, the victim may be extremely vulnerable to the scam. Techniques of romance scammers are varied and may include:.

However, elderly people, women, and those who have lost a spouse are often targeted. Fraudsters have used dating sites to find and target victims for some time, but there is a new twist on romance scams that involves international criminal networks using dating sites to recruit money mules. The victim is then asked to receive and send money from that account. These bank accounts, the FBI says, may be used to facilitate criminal activities.

Internet Scams Warning

Army Criminal Investigation Command CID receives hundreds of reports a month from individuals who have fallen victim to a scam perpetrated by a person impersonating a U. Soldier online. Soldier who then began asking for money for various false service-related needs. Victims of these scams can lose tens of thousands of dollars and face a slim likelihood of recovering any of it.

Victims may encounter these romance scammers on a legitimate dating website or social media platform, but they are not U. To perpetrate this scam, the scammers take on the online persona of a current or former U.

“Victims of these ‘romance scams’ report they became involved in an online relationship with someone they believed to be a U.S. Soldier who.

Weeks later, the U. Department of Justice DOJ filed charges against 80 members of an organized international criminal network composed primarily of Nigerians dedicated to romance fraud and several other cyber schemes. Even more recently, in early September, the DOJ announced the arrest of a New Jersey man for his involvement in a separate international criminal network that defrauded more than 30 victims in romance fraud schemes using fake online profiles of U.

The suspect allegedly carried out the scheme with help from co-conspirators in Ghana. Many of these types of fraudsters feature common characteristics that anyone looking for love on the internet should know. One of the most common romance fraud schemes in recent years involves impersonators using images of U. Sometimes these requests are for gift cards or prepaid debit cards, assistance with medical bills for family members, or funds to pay for international round-trip airfare for a first meeting with the victim.

In the case involving the New Jersey man mentioned above, fraudsters pretending to be U.

5 Things to Know About Military Romance Scams on Facebook

Bryan Denny’s military photos are ubiquitous on scam social accounts. Fighting back has proven hard, even for the combat veteran. Recently retired after serving more than two and a half decades in the Army, including deploying as part of Desert Storm, Operation Iraqi Freedom, and Operation Enduring Freedom, Denny had expected to encounter some uncomfortable situations in his transition to civilian life.

Romance scammers create fake profiles on dating apps or social media sites Millions of people turn to online dating apps or social networking sites to meet For example, you could do a search for “oil rig scammer” or “US Army scammer.

Online scammers who use lonely hearts schemes to bilk people out of money sometimes steal the identity of a military member to tug at their victim’s heartstrings. Usually, these scammers develop fake contacts, using easily obtained pictures from real U. The scammers often use internet cafes and reroute money multiple times to untraceable sources, making it difficult to track them or reclaim any money they manage to steal. What’s especially insidious about this kind of online scam is that many people legitimately want to help a member of the U.

The scammers are exploiting people’s good intentions toward our men and women in uniform, and exploit their goodwill. Not only does this kind of fraud hurt the victim, but it damages the reputation of the United States Military member. Foreign victims often fall for the scam, and really do think a U. Someone who pretends to be a sailor, soldier, airman, or Marine looking for love but really is looking for cash will count on you not investigating them too deeply. This is where you can get the upper hand.

Here are a few cautionary measures to try and protect yourself against these scams if you decide to try to find love online. First, avoid giving out your personal information and pictures to someone you don’t know. The person could be from any part of the world and could use your personal information and images to impersonate or even blackmail you.

Do your best to research every detail and verify what you can.

Army reservists accused of $3 million-worth of romance and business scams

Your military friend or family member serves our country with integrity and honor. Unfortunately, there are scammers out there who try to take advantage of that service to cheat them and you. You can help protect your service member against military scams by learning the warning signs of schemes that target those in the military community. Unfortunately, these scams prey on fears about the coronavirus disease, trying to trick service members and family members into revealing sensitive information or donating money to a fraudulent cause.

Bogus emails that look legitimate can offer fake alerts or information about the outbreak, fake workplace policy updates, or fake medical advice. By clicking on links in these emails, you could download malware or have your identity stolen.

American soldiers have become unwitting stooges for West African online Online romance scams like these are an “epidemic” sweeping the.

Do you love a man, or woman in uniform? Online dating scammers hope so too. Modern online romance scams are premeditated, organized crimes that steal millions, potentially billions of dollars from vulnerable, lonely people over the internet. The scammers may just have lit upon the perfect crime: They sit at computers safely overseas, hunting for their prey on social networks, and they rarely get caught. In the U. Could it happen here in greater New Ulm?

I have met with people so sure that their love interest is the real McCoy that the mere suggestion that they may be victim to a scam is absurd. These webs of deceit draw victims deeper in and farther away from the logic that can only be seen by those who are not smitten. It can drive deep divisions between family and friends, and financially ruin the love interest. Victims of these online scams have lost tens of thousands of dollars, with a very low possibility of recovery.

Soldiers and their loved ones are not charged money so that the soldier can go on leave. No one is required to request leave on behalf of a soldier.

How I catfished my catfisher: a W5 investigation into romance scams

Nowadays, you have to be cautious of everything you do online. Scammers are always trying to get money, goods or services out of unsuspecting people—and military members are often targets. Here are some scams that have recently been affecting service members, Defense Department employees and their families. In April, Army Criminal Investigation Command put out a warning about romance scams in which online predators go on dating sites claiming to be deployed active-duty soldiers.

According to the alleged victims, the scammers have asked for money for fake service-related needs, such as transportation, communications fees, processing and medical fees—even marriage.

Internet romance scams work because greedy people use time-tested Several years ago I had a contact from a Us Soldier in Afghanistan.

If you thought online dating websites are on the rise, than you would be right. However, not everyone who creates a profile on these sites has honorable intentions. Most dating scams start innocently enough. Scammers contact victims via social media sites or through email, claiming common interests or a distant, mutual connection—such as an introduction at a wedding or other large gathering. Other scam artists make their fake profiles look as appealing as possible and wait from victims to reach out and begin the conversation.

Once a scammer has you hooked, the possibilities are limitless, but here are a few of the most common variations:.

Military romance scams trick victims out of money