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. They do this through email, social media, dating websites and other website and apps. They will have a fake backstory, family, friends and job. They may start by requesting small sums of money to test the waters, and then build up to requesting larger amounts.
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.
If you’ve only ever met online, you need to take extra precautions to protect yourself. Don’t let scammers take advantage of your better nature and steal your money. ‘They told me everyone was using it and that it would help us keep in touch.
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. Search engines, such as Google and Bing, allow users to search the internet for an image such as a profile picture.
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”.
Scammers often post fake profiles on dating websites to attract service members. If your member responds to one of these profiles, the scammer may make.
If they find the member, they’ll forward your request to them. Each locator has its own requirements. The VA will forward your written message to the vet if they have his or her current address on file. Add as much identifying information as you have. Put all of this in another envelope and address it to the nearest VA Regional Office.
You can also find a list of other resources that may be able to help you find a veteran.
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.
It’s not unusual for military couples to split the cost of dating or to choose cheaper dates in order The military is dealing with an influx of online romance 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. There are safety measures you can take to protect yourself: Avoid clicking on links or attachments in unsolicited emails. Use trusted sources such as legitimate government websites for information.
Avoid emails that insist you act now. Remember, there are always people looking to take advantage of a crisis to harm others — be vigilant. These scams target military personnel looking for housing near a base. Scammers pretend to be real estate agents and post fake ads for rental properties on websites, sometimes promising military discounts and other incentives.
They try to get service members to send them money for fees and deposits upfront — and the victim ends up with no money and no place to live. If someone insists on receiving money or other payments before a property has been seen, it is probably a rental scam.
How I catfished my catfisher: a W5 investigation into romance scams
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.
Military romance scammers stole $ using Bryan Denny’s face. Now, the former U.S. soldier is fighting back against his ‘evil’ online.
In a tech-savvy world, it is common for couples to meet online through dating websites or apps. Unfortunately, not everyone joining these dating platforms is looking for true love. The frequency of online romances has caught the attention of fraudsters who manipulate people seeking companionship through romance scams. Fraudsters operating romance scams have recently taken to posing as members of the armed forces to lure their victims into a romance with what they believe to be a soldier.
This scam commonly begins on a social media platform, but it can also start through matching on an online dating website. After the impersonator has built up a rapport with their target and earned his or her trust, they will ask for money.
Love me don’t: the West African online scam using US soldiers
It might start as a friendly introduction on Facebook. There are pictures of your friend in uniform. Somehow, things have gotten serious, but something still feels weird. The truth is, scam artists target the military community —either by stealing identities or targeting folks with military affinities. Military terminology and policies can be confusing and unfamiliar, so the target may be less likely to question the answers the scammer is giving.
We know that some service members have a hard time making ends meet.
‘We believe this is one of the largest cases of its kind in U.S. history,’ Romance-related scams are now the most costly form of online fraud.
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:. Fraudsters may use the name and likeness of actual soldier or create an entirely fake profile. They send out legitimate-seeming emails, introducing themselves as being near the end of their careers, often with older children and typically widowed under tragic circumstances. The emails are riddled with military jargon, titles and base locations, which sound impressive.
In many cases, these scammers work with one or more accomplices who pose as doctors or lawyers to extract a steady stream of money. In many cases, military scams drag on for months or even years before victims finally get suspicious.
Tell-tale signs your online date may be an online fraud
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.
US prosecutors charged 80 people — mostly Nigerians — in the widespread conspiracy Online dating scam is ‘one of the largest of its kind’.
Military combat isn’t the only battle service members are fighting. Those were the findings of a recent data analysis by Comparitech. The consumer technology website analyzed scam data through the Federal Trade Commission and the Better Business Bureau. Below are the fraud schemes that have led to the steepest losses for military personnel, according to Comparitech. In one notorious example, Colfax Capital Corp. Impostor scams can run the gamut from fake employers to fraudsters impersonating authority figures.
Romance schemes are the most commonly reported fraud , according to the U. In this case, predators may impersonate active-duty soldiers on dating sites and then sweet talk victims out of their cash. Predators have also lured service members into sharing compromising photos and videos, and then demanded money in exchange for not publicizing the embarrassing images. Scammers have also impersonated employers in a bid to get veterans to purchase work equipment from a third party and then abscond with the money.
Bad actors can steal service members’ identities and then use them to collect military benefits or file phony tax returns.