March 25, 2010
In Family Matters, we often focus on issues relating to already established military families, but today we’d like to draw attention to what started it all: dating, and the new dangers that poses. With more and more singles looking to the Internet to find that “special someone,” the U.S. Army is now urging the public to beware of romance scams perpetrated by criminals pretending to be U.S. soldiers.
The U.S. Army Criminal Investigation Command on Fort Belvoir, Va., has received so many reports of Internet romance scams involving criminals posing as soldiers that it is now warning that many Internet romance sites that promise true love “only end up breaking hearts and bank accounts.”
The CID issued its warning in an Army News article “CID Warns of Internet Romance Scams” that describes the scams that typically focus on female victims and prey on their emotions and patriotism.
“We are seeing a number of scams being perpetrated on the Internet, especially on social, dating-type Web sites where females are the main target,” said Chris Grey, CID spokesman.
In particular, women should be suspicious if they begin a relationship on the Internet with someone claiming to be an American soldier and find that within a matter of weeks, the alleged soldier is asking for money or marriage, said Grey.
The criminals frequently pretend to be U.S. servicemen and usually claim to be serving in Iraq or Afghanistan, said Grey. The perpetrators often will take the true rank and name of a soldier who is honorably serving his country somewhere in the world, marry that up with some photographs of a soldier pulled off of the Internet, and then build a false identity before starting to prowl the Internet for victims.
“We’ve even seen instances where the perpetrators are asking the victims for money to ‘purchase leave papers’ from the Army or help pay for their flight home so they can leave the war zone,” Grey said.
To date, there have been no reports to CID indicating that any U.S. servicemembers themselves have suffered any financial loss as a result of these impersonators, but the agency notes it is a form of identity theft.
CID offers up these suggestions on what to look out for:
– 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 servicemember;
– 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 serving overseas will often have an APO or FPO mailing address. Internet or not, servicemembers always appreciate a letter in the mail;
– Be extremely suspicious if you are asked for money for transportation costs, communication fees or marriage processing and medical fees;
– 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 aware of common spelling, grammatical or language errors in the e-mails.
For more information on Internet romance scams please visit the Federal Trade Commission’s “Fighting Identity Theft” Web site, the U.S. Army Criminal Investigation Command’s Web site, and the Internet Crime Complaint Center.
If you think you might be a victim of an Internet romance scam or other types of identity theft, report it to the Federal Trade Commission by calling 1-877-ID-THEFT (438-4338) or contacting the FTC online .