Victims of these “romance scams” report they became involved in an online relationship with someone they believed to be a U.S. 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.S. Soldiers. To perpetrate this scam, the scammers take on the online persona of a current or former U.S. Soldier, and then, using photographs of a Soldier from the internet, build a false identity to begin prowling the web for victims.
Never send money to someone claiming to be a Soldier!
The most common scheme involves criminals, often from other countries -- most notably from West African countries -- pretending to be U.S. Soldiers serving in a combat zone or other overseas location. These crooks often present documents and other "proof" of their financial need when asking their victims to wire money to them.
CID's Computer Crime Investigative Unit also cautions Soldiers themselves to be on the guard for "sextortion scams." In these scams, criminals engage in online sexual activity with unsuspecting Service members and then demand money or favors in exchange for not publicizing potentially embarrassing images, video or information.
Such scams, when they involve dating sites, pose a unique challenge in the fight against impostors and identity thieves, because on such sites a dating profile is often required to conduct a search for fake accounts. That makes it difficult for organizations to monitor those sites for impersonators using a Soldier’s or key leaders’ information in a scam.
In addition, it is not possible to remove dating site profiles without legitimate proof of identity theft or a scam. If you suspect fraud on a dating site, take a screenshot of any advances for money or impersonations and report the account on the platform immediately.
Online Romance Scam Information
Army CID is warning anyone who is involved in online dating to proceed with caution when corresponding with persons claiming to be U.S. Soldiers currently serving in Afghanistan or elsewhere.
Army CID receives hundreds of allegations a month from victims who state they got involved in an online relationship with someone, on a legitimate dating website or other social media website, who claims to be a U.S. Soldier. The "Soldier" then begins asking for money for various false, service-related needs such as transportation costs, communication fees, marriage, processing and medical fees. Victims of these online scams have lost tens of thousands of dollars, with a very low possibility of recovery.
The U.S. has established numerous task force organizations to deal with this growing epidemic; unfortunately, many times the people committing these scams are from African countries using untraceable email addresses, routing accounts through numerous locations around the world and utilizing pay per hour Internet cyber cafes, which often times maintain no accountability of use.
DO NOT SEND MONEY! Be extremely suspicious if you are asked for money for transportation costs, communication fees or marriage processing and medical fees. Use of Western Union.
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. Servicemen and women serving overseas will often have an APO or FPO mailing address. Internet or not, service members always appreciate a letter in the mail.
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 has no idea or is not a part of the scam.
Be very suspicious if the person you are corresponding with wants you to mail anything to an African country.
Be aware of common spelling, grammatical or language errors in the emails.
Be very suspicious of someone you have never met and who pledges their love at warp speed.