The U.S. Army Criminal Investigation Command (CID) warns that women in the U.S. and around the world are being scammed by persons pretending to be U.S. Soldiers serving in Iraq or Afghanistan, whose promises of true love only "end up breaking hearts and bank accounts."
According to CID, the pretend heroes sink so low as to be using the names, ranks and even pictures of actual U.S. soldiers - some killed in action -- to target women 30 to 55 years old on social media and dating web sites.
"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," said Chris Grey, Army CID's spokesman in a press release. "It is heartbreaking to hear these stories over and 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."
According to Grey, the scams typically employ romantically worded requests for money to help the fake "deployed soldier" buy special laptop computers, international telephones, military leave papers, and transportation fees needed to keep the "relationship" going.
"We've even seen instances where the perpetrators are asking the victims for money to 'purchase leave papers' from the Army, help pay for medical expenses from combat wounds received, or help pay for their flight home so they can leave the war zone," said Grey.
Victims who ask to actually talk to the fake soldiers are told the Army does not allow them to make phone calls or that they need money to "help keep the Army internet running." Another common thread, according to Grey is for the "soldier" to claim to be a widower raising a child on their own.
"These perpetrators, often from other countries, most notably from West African countries are good at what they do and quite familiar with American culture, but the claims about the Army and its regulations are ridiculous," said Grey.
Report Them: All forms of financial fraud, which is exactly what these fake, "love for money" soldiers are trying to pull, can now be reported through the StopFraud.gov website: http://www.stopfraud.gov/report.html
While the Army CID offers a complete list of what to look for in these scams, the best advice is: Never send money! Be extremely suspicious if you are asked for money for transportation costs, communication fees or marriage processing and medical fees.
"Another critical issue is we don't want victims who do not report this crime walking away and thinking that a U.S. serviceman has ripped them off when in fact that serviceman is honorable serving his country and often not aware that his pictures or identity have been stolen," added Grey.
NOTE: No branch of the U.S. military charges service members money for permission to take leave. Leave is earned, not purchased. As the U.S. Army Criminal Investigation Command recommends: Never Send Money - "Be extremely suspicious if you are asked for money for transportation costs, communication fees or marriage processing and medical fees."
In addition, be very suspicious if the person you are corresponding with wants you to mail anything to an African country.
Where to Turn Them In: If you suspect or know you have been victimized by a fake soldier scammer, you can report the incident to the FBI's Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3) at http://www.ic3.gov/default.aspx.
Also See: Military Removes Online Personnel Locator Services
Out of a concern for the safety and privacy of their servicemembers, all branches of the U.S. military have removed their web-based, online personnel locator services.
Update: Some Things to Remember
Remember that some -- maybe many -- of these online thieves may be illegally using the names of real soldiers. Just because, for example you find out that "Sgt. Joe Doaks" is a real soldier, it does not mean that "your" Sgt. Doaks is the real Sgt. Doaks. Also remember that there is no guarantee that a real soldier cannot also be a real thief. Your online military friend could be a real soldier, using another real soldier's name to scam you. Bottom line is, be extremely careful in any online relationship, and be especially suspicious of anyone you have never met who asks you for money.
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