Military Romance Scams

CID ADVISES VIGILANCE AGAINST INTERNET ‘ROMANCE SCAMS’
By U.S. Army CID Public Affairs Office January 18, 2017

WASHINGTON — In today’s digital age, when most individuals communicate regularly with family and friends over social media platforms, one should always be awarethat online predators and scammers are lurking on those same platforms, actively stalking their next unsuspecting victims.

Now that the holidays are over and Valentine’s Day is fast approaching, Special Agents with the U.S. Army Criminal Investigation Command, also known as CID, are anticipating a different type of holiday frenzy — an increase in “romance scam” reports.

The scam involves an online scammer tricking a victim into believing he or she is “in a relationship” with an American Soldier and then hustling the victim out of his or her money.

“These perpetrators are definitely not American Soldiers, but they are quite familiar with American culture,” said 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.

According to Grey, perpetrators take on the online persona of a U.S. Soldier, marry the persona with photographs of a Soldier off the Internet, and then begin prowling the web for victims. The Soldier’s rank and other details are often included in an effort to lend credence to the scammer’s story.

The Army reports that several senior officers and enlisted Soldiers throughout the Army have also had their identities stolen and used in these scams.

To date, Army CID has received no reports indicating a Soldier has been criminally involved or suffered financial loss as a result of these attacks. But victims of these scams have reported losing thousands of dollars.

One victim went so far as to refinance her house to help out her new online beau. In the end, she lost more than $70,000.

According to romancescam.org, the scammers set up fake social media accounts and dating site profiles with pictures suggesting that they are from the U.S. The scammers portray themselves as caring and loving individuals looking for a soul mate.

Once the victim is on the hook, the scammer attempts to persuade the victim to provide financial support to deal with a crisis or on some other pretext.

Scammers will communicate carefully worded romantic requests for money to purchase computers, international telephones, or pay transportation fees — always to be used by the fictitious “deployed Soldier” so the relationship can continue.

They ask the victim to send money, often thousands of dollars at a time, to a third party address.

Grey said he gets calls every week from victims of these kinds of scams.

“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,” Grey said. “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.”

Along with the romance-type scams, CID has also received complaints from citizens worldwide that they have been the victims of other types of scams in which a cyber-crook impersonates a U.S. service member.

One version usually involves the sale of a vehicle; where the service member claims to be moving overseas and has to quickly sell their vehicle because they are being sent to another duty station.

After sending bogus information regarding the vehicle, the seller requests the buyer do a wire transfer to a third party to complete the purchase. In reality, the entire exchange is a ruse for the crook to get the wire transfer and leave the buyer high and dry, with no vehicle.

“Another critical issue is we don’t want victims walking away and thinking that a U.S. Soldier has ripped them off when in fact that Soldier is honorably serving his or her country and often not even aware that his pictures or identity have been stolen,” Grey said.

WHAT TO LOOK FOR:
— 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 sent 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.

The U.S. has established numerous task force organizations to deal with this and other growing issues; unfortunately, the people committing these scams are using untraceable email addresses on Gmail, Yahoo, Hotmail, etc., routing accounts through numerous locations around the world, and using pay-per-hour Internet cyber cafes, which often times maintain no accountability of use. The ability of law enforcement to identify these perpetrators is limited, so individuals must stay on the alert and be personally responsible to protect themselves.

Officials said that if you suspect that you are a victim, you should contact the authorities as soon as possible and stop all correspondence with that person immediately. They added that the scams are a grave misrepresentation of the U.S. Army and the tremendous amount of support programs and mechanisms that exist for Soldiers today, especially those serving overseas.

WHERE TO GO FOR HELP:
— Report the theft to the Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3) (FBI-NW3C Partnership).
Online: http://www.ic3.gov/default.aspx
— Report the theft to the Federal Trade Commission. Your report helps law enforcement officials across the United States in their investigations.
.
Online: http://www.ftc.gov/idtheft
By phone: 1-877-ID-THEFT (438-4338) or TTY, 1-866-653-4261
By mail: Identity Theft Clearinghouse, Federal Trade Commission, Washington, DC 20580
.
— Report the fraud to the Federal Trade Commission on Nigerian Scams.
Email: spam@uce.gov

For more information on CID, visit http://www.cid.army.mil.

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4 Responses to Military Romance Scams

  1. Ls says:

    My experience is they will never be seen on Skype AND they claim to be from “the united state of american or the united state of California.” This is verbatim.

    • RomanceScams says:

      Ls, you seem to have a good understanding of what to watch for in terms of mistakes in grammar and usage, whether in writing or spoken. Often they try to explain this away by saying they grew up in a different country or have spent many years away from the U.S. Some are many hours better writers than others and some have a barely perceptible accent while others can barely be understood. It may be surprising to many to learn that there are a lot of very well educated men that take to scamming because it pays so much better than working in the career they have studied.

      Some scammers actually have the ability to set up Skype communication by using technology that allows them to manipulate a still photo to seem like you are actually seeing the person you are involved with. Of course, there will be problems with video quality, lots of static or the video freezing. Everyday the scammers get smarter and learn new techniques to increase their chances of getting money from their victims.

  2. Edith says:

    Be careful of these so called oilrig scammers. After gaining your trust. They fall in love with you right away. Tell you what you want to hear. Send you romantic quotes. Call you their wife. Make all kinds of promises. They make goid money but never have access to it. They’re all widowed. With a kid. Looking fir a mommy for their kid. Then the crises halpen. Machines break. Need money. For parts oil, food. Beneficiary. When you confront them with their bullshit. They blame you. They have an answer for everything. They have no phone because the oil platform doesn’t allow it. Bullshit. Daniel Malcolm Bush was my scammer. From Bulgaria. But yet forgot to speak his mother tongue. Where did he get that name? Oh his father. Another alias was Barkev Hagopian. Foster Alan Wood. Adam Snelson. Loser. I let him con me out out of 21k US. Fraud squad here in Canada us working on my case. But I won’t homd my breath. Found this charmer on Facebook. Beware.

    • RomanceScams says:

      Edith, the scammers have several favorite professions. Civil engineers, oil rig workers, gold and gem dealers, military officers, consultants. It all works as long as it is a job that takes them away from their so-called home and from you. The victim’s expression of positive feelings and a willingness to send a small amount of money, for instance, an iTunes gift card, a watch, an inexpensive cell phone, signals the scammers that it is time for their troubles, problems and catastrophes to begin. The victim is the only person who can help, they say. The matter is urgent, please hurry! As soon as the problem is solved they will hurry to be at your side. But then there is another problem, and another, and so on. If the victim refuses to help, there are accusations of not loving, not caring, being selfish, followed by mean words and threats.

      Facebook is full of scammers and it is an important source for stolen photos for them. Scammers are everywhere: dating sites, special interest groups, linked-in, chat rooms.

      We learn – never, ever send money to someone you have not met face to face!

      Scammers names are made up or stolen. They change them as often as we change our socks! Scammers may re-use names and stolen photos, or mix them in different combinations or start with something new. And the odds of being victimized by just one scammer at a time are small. They work in teams with one person overseeing and directing the many scams going on at one time. One scammer may send you emails, another will send you music, still another will write (actually steal) love poems.

      One thing we suggest to victims to help them separate from the illusion of a person so in love with him/her is to never say “my scammer”. It is too personal to use “my”. Say the scammer(s), the criminals, the sociopaths. It will help to break the connection that is felt.

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