For almost as long as humans have existed, there have been those of us who are happy to prey on the naïveté of people who trust too much. And since the birth of the internet, online scams have been one of the great dangers of the internet. Do you want to know how to check if a soldier is real or not? You may be a victim of a romance catfish scam. Keep reading to find out how to protect yourself, and services you can use immediately.
We all make jokes about the Nigerian prince who needs help funneling money out of Africa. He’s willing to pay for it – so long as you send him your bank details or a transfer fee. But we think most people can agree that cash-advance scams aren’t the worst of them. No, that honor goes to the love scams, or as they’re known today, catfishing.
Catfishing is an internet phenomenon. A person creates a fake social media presence or profile for deceptive purposes. This usually revolves around seducing hapless strangers in order to con them out of their money. You might know someone who has been a victim of these kinds of online scams. Maybe YOU have even experienced it yourself.
Is Military Catfishing Common?
Sadly, these operations are common all over the world, and the more aware the public is, the harder it becomes for these people to target their prey. Naturally, these “catfishers” have to find new tactics to convince people they’re genuine. Because of this new kinds of catfishing scams are popping up everywhere. One kind that seems to be catching on in particular, are scams involving military personnel.
It makes sense right? Military men and women leave their families and put their lives on the line to help foreign countries or in the defense of their own. They are exactly the kind of person that someone might feel compelled to help or support. It is for this reason that these scams are used so successfully to exploit others.
You expect them to be strong, capable and reliable. In many ways the ideal kind of partner. So it’s also easy to see how the everyday person might fall easily into trusting and loving a soldier, even if you’ve never met them in real life.
Military Catfishing and Online Scams
Online scams involving military servicemen have become hugely prolific in the United States. So much so that high-ranking U.S military officials have had to make public statements warning the public. They recommend that any individual who is contacted by strangers on social media claiming to be soldiers serving overseas, should only respond with caution.
This form of catfishing has affected enough people that there’s even a Facebook page. It was created specifically to warn people and spread information about these scams. The page is Military Romance Scams and has over forty-four thousand likes. There are even entire task forces arranged by the US government to crack down on these crimes.
How does it work?
These scams are fairly straightforward. They usually target single women in their mid-30s to early-70s. They are also difficult to catch and prosecute because they are most often carried out by people outside of the United States. They will use an untraceable email address and routers from all kinds of locations such as 24-hour internet cafes.
These people start their operations by finding online directories of military personnel. They take names and photos from various websites. They spend weeks and months wooing their unsuspecting targets, luring them into a state of trust and often love.
They will continue to pressure the victim until they willingly give their money to help these supposed national heroes. They will fabricate all kinds of different excuses for why they need extra cash. And aside from infatuation, many people feel obligated and are ashamed to mistrust or be suspicious of soldiers.
How to Check If a Soldier Is Real
If you fear that you or someone else in your life has become the victim of a catfishing scam, there are steps that you can take to find out for sure. You want to find out if the person is (A) the identity that they claim to be and (B) a real soldier. The best method for doing this is to use a background checking company, the easiest ones to access being online.
These organizations will use minimal information to do a “deep-dive” on the person in question. They use things like names, photos etc. This will help you figure out whether the person you’re corresponding with is who they say they are. Think of it as similar to hiring a Private Investigator as they did back in the 40s and 50s, only replace the trench coat and fedora with a laptop screen.
Below is a list of reliable background checking services you can use to combat such a situation:
BeenVerified is the premier background checking service for catfishing open to the general public, like you and I. With a few pieces of information, you can find out everything you need about the person.
We, at RomanceScams.org, highly recommend BeenVerified for looking up all types of people on the internet.
InfoTracer is a screening site with a stunningly wide range of background-checking services. InfoTracer will attempt to find over 20 different kinds of public records. These can include birth records to deaths, marriage, divorce, arrests, bankruptcy etc.
They also specialise in finding your subjects contact details, hidden social media profiles, any professional licenses they might hold along with as MANY relatives of that person as they can find. InfoTracer has been in operation for over 10 years.
There are also other ways you can confirm a soldier’s identity. Sometimes scammers will send falsified military documents to “prove” they are who they claim to be. You can find common false documents that have been used many times in these cases on the internet.
Think You May Have Fallen Victim?
Have you sent money to someone online and suspect you have been scammed? To confirm you can contact local authorities and give them any and all information that you have. As mentioned above, there is a task force of more than a thousand people dedicated to tracking down perpetrators involved in scams of this kind. It’s possible the person has already done this to others, maybe using the same name and photos.
How to Avoid a Military Scam
Want to ensure that you and your loved ones don’t fall victim to these kinds of scam? There are many tactics to make and precautions to take. We’re going to go through any and all the steps you need to consider.
1. Be On your Guard
The first, and in our opinion most obvious point: be on your guard! If someone is trying to scam you, they are likely to slip up on their own lies at some point, even in a minor way. Be vigilant, and if your suspicions are raised then trust your instincts and research further.
Not to mention, it is very unusual for people to pledge any kind of love and devotion to someone they have only known for a short time. Particularly someone they’ve never met in person.
2. Keep Your Private Info To Yourself
Try not to give out personal information. Especially addresses, birth dates, names of family members etc. In the case that this person is a scammer, even they don’t successfully convince you to give them money, they may still use your personal details for purposes of blackmail or identity theft.
3. Look Them Up
Do your research. Much of the reason these scams are so successful is that people are willing to take these “soldiers” at their word rather than researching. If a soldier is asking you to send him money for services, research the kind of services that military personnel are provided while on base.
4. Always Consider The Worst
Second-guess specific things they tell you regarding their life. Second-guess everything regarding their job. In most of these cases, scammers will come up with any number of reasons why they need money. This will usually because of supposed shortcomings of the military.
Here is an incomplete list of things either provided to soldiers on base or are inessential. They frequently appear in these cases:
- Medical fees
- Fees for taking vacation time (no soldier is charged for a holiday)
- Early retirement
- Transfer fees
- Health insurance
- Supplies for troops
Another point to remember is that army personnel almost always has access to calling credit or have an address that mail can be sent to. If they tell you they can only communicate via email or messenger, take notice.
Some Final Thoughts
Following on from this, a tip that applies to any situation in which you feel suspicious. Use your common sense! If someone you have never met in real life is asking you to send money because they aren’t provided for by one of the highest funded institutions in the country, something isn’t right.
Don’t let your natural judgement be clouded because someone is paying attention to you. Also if you are communicating with a person who claims to be in the U.S military or military from any other English speaking country, but their spelling, grammar and usage are very poor or inconsistent with natural English, take note.
Most of these scams are carried out by people from non-native English speaking countries. Ask for advice. Go straight to your friends, family, whoever is close to you with all the information and slight suspicions you might have.
People don’t like to believe that they are easily fooled or exploited and will deny it, so paradoxically that’s one of the reasons they fall victim to these scams. Assume your judgement is clouded and ask for second opinions.