Have you ever met someone online who claims to be a service member? Have they requested gift cards, records, or money from you? If that's the case, you might be a target of one of the thousands of military scams that occur every day. Every month, the US Army Criminal Investigation Command (CID) receives hundreds of complaints from people who have been victims of an online scam perpetrated by a cybercriminal impersonating a US soldier.
MILITARY SCAMS: ROMANCE
Officials from the United States military advise anyone dating someone claiming to be a military member to proceed with caution. Military Romance Scams are one of many types of Romance Scams in which cyber criminals target singles who use dating websites or other social networking channels but are not United States soldiers. Cybercriminals construct a fake profile using the name of a current or former US soldier to carry out this scheme. They pick a few enticing pictures of the soldier, do some homework on their backstory, or create their own. By adopting the identity of a U.S. soldier, especially one that can be “verified” online, the cybercriminal gains credibility as someone willing to put their life on the line for their country.
Cybercriminals express strong emotion toward their victims in a relatively short time, under the guise of being a service member. They're likely to steer the discussion away from the website where they first met, citing connectivity issues or other factors. They do this because they know that most dating websites have security features that can identify and delete scammers, which will reveal their identity.
Around this time, the cyber attacker informs their victim that they cannot meet in person due to their deployment. Because of the connectivity issues, video calling is out. While they may be open to a phone call, they're likely to have connection issues there as well, further "validating" their connection's spottiness.
This may include bank transfers, “moving” money on their behalf, sending gift cards, or providing official records. They may establish the validity of their request by presenting “proof” of the situation, but it is essential to note that this evidence is forged. Here's an example of such paperwork: This may include bank transfers, “moving” money on their behalf, sending gift cards, or providing official records. They may establish the validity of their request by presenting “proof” of the situation, but it is essential to note that this evidence is forged.
Here's an example of such paperwork: makes their move after gaining the trust of their target through daily contact and, in some cases, sending gifts. This is when they ask for assistance with personal emergencies, transportation expenses, communication fees, marriage licensing, processing, or medical costs.
This may include bank transfers, “moving” money on their behalf, sending gift cards, or providing official records. They may establish the validity of their request by presenting “proof” of the situation, but it is essential to note that this evidence is forged.
Victims in online military scams often believe they are performing a good thing by assisting a service member. Instead, they have entrusted their money to a con artist, risking thousands of dollars with no chance of recovering it.
MILITARY SCAMS: SEXTORTION
Sextortion scams are another form of fraud that targets military personnel. Cyber offenders partake in online sexual contact with unsuspecting service members in these scams. Then they seek money or favors in return for keeping the potentially humiliating photos, videos or chat messages private. Military personnel who want to keep their integrity intact must comply with these cyber criminals' demands, sometimes at the cost of thousands of dollars. When they may no longer meet the cyber criminal's requests, the victim's humiliating photographs, videos, or conversations may be made public, or the victim may hear that backups of the embarrassing photos, videos, or chats have already been made public.
MILITARY SCAMS: WHAT TO LOOK FOR
Scammers use a variety of terms and phrases to entice naive men and women into relationships. Here are a few samples of words they might use:
- They describe themselves as being on a "peacekeeping mission."
- He or she wants to be in a relationship with someone trustworthy.
- Their parents, partner, or child are no longer alive.
- Their child is cared for by a nanny or other guardian.
- They declare their love and affection unusually quickly into a relationship.
- Instead of your name, the scammer uses terms of endearment such as "my love" and "my darling.”
- The scammer expresses their eagerness to be with you.
- For "security reasons," webcams and phone calls are prohibited.
- Their use of the English language doesn't match that of someone born and educated in the United States.
MILITARY SCAMS: THINGS TO KNOW
Scammers often have elaborate stories to persuade others that they have a genuine need for assistance. Here are few things to keep in mind to avoid some of the more common scenarios:
- The US Government does not charge military personnel and their families to take time off.
- It is never necessary for another person to request a leave of absence on a service member's behalf.
- You will not receive correspondence from a general officer on behalf of a soldier who has requested leave.
- Soldiers are not required to get approval before marrying.
- The Military does not charge soldiers to speak with loved ones.
- Military members are not charged a fee for early retirement.
- The US Government provides health care to all service personnel and their immediate family members, which covers their medical expenses and the medical costs of their family members no matter where in the world they are located.
- Deployed military personnel do not need to solicit funds from the general public to eat or shelter their troops.
- Military personnel on deployment do not come across vast sums of money and do not need your assistance getting the money out of the region.
MILITARY SCAMS: HOW TO AVOID THEM
Never, ever give money to someone you haven't met in person, no matter how convincing their story seems to be.
Do your homework. Look up your contact’s name, photos, and text from their profile and posts on the internet to see if it fits information from other sources or fraud alerts.
Choose paid dating sites with a dedicated support team that monitors accounts for anomalies and scammer traits/behaviors.
If a representative from a dating service contacts you to inform you that they removed someone for security reasons, trust their judgment because they have several tools to see behind the scenes and do not decide to remove someone without solid proof of wrongdoing.
Use browser protection like Guardio to identify when a link a scammer who contacted you contains a phishing attempt.
Activate account monitoring so that you’ll be alerted if a scammer has made your information public to other criminals on the deep web. Report to the dating website when someone requests money from you or causes you to feel suspicious of their identity.
If you’ve fallen victim to a military scam, it is unlikely that you’ll get your money back. Since cybercriminals often live overseas, they are tough to trace. You can, however, report the scam to the Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3) to help keep others safe.