Military romance scams have been going on for a long time, dating back to the early days of the internet and social media platforms like Facebook. In fact, many military romance scams originate on social media rather than through online dating sites, though both platforms have their fair share of issues.
The problem of military romance scams is a big one. A investigation by the New York Times revealed that there are countless scams on Facebook despite efforts to verify every new account. There are teams of people in foreign countries working these scams, with Nigeria being the most prolific, and they have several scams running at any given time to ensure that they’re constantly bringing in money.
As with any kind of interaction on the internet, it pays to be vigilant. Though you would want to think that you can trust a member of the Armed Forces that you meet online, the fact is that there is no way to verify who you’re talking to unless you meet face to face.
In fact, as you’ll learn later on, meeting face to face is one of the best ways to catch a scammer.
What Is A Military Romance Scam?
Like traditional romance scams, military romance scams also involve plots to take advantage of innocent and unsuspecting victims. In this case, the victims are made to believe that they’re helping members of the military, whether it’s providing money, gift cards or doing favors for them.
Military romance scams are most prevalent on Facebook. Most of the scammers are based in Nigeria or elsewhere in Africa. They take pictures of active service men and use them to create fake profiles. Once the profile is complete, they find women on social media who are either military widows or single women looking for romantic connections.
Once they have a willing mark, the scammers find ways to trick their victims out of thousands of dollars.
How Military Romance Scams Begin
Military romance scammers usually begin with a subtle gesture like a private message or a comment on a post you’ve written. They’re testing the water to see how you respond.
When they find a suitable victim, scammers have scripts that they follow so that they have a response for just about every possible scenario. They might claim to be in a combat zone or elsewhere on deployment. Since they steal photos from real-life servicemen they have photos to support this idea.
Things usually move quickly, with innocent conversations developing into intimate friendships and even romantic relationships. These men offer their prey the kind of relationship they want, and that’s how they hook you.
Once the scammers believe that they have hooked a victim, they start making requests. And it’s when they start making requests that all of the red flags should be up.
Red Flags and What To Watch For
Any time you meet someone on the internet and she starts asking for money, you should be suspicious. Think of it this way: If someone stopped you on the street and asked for your credit card number, would you give it out? Or conversely, if a stranger you’ve just met at the grocery story asked you to go buy a $500 gift card and forward it to his sick cousin, would you do it?
Of course not.
So why do people consistently fall victim to scammers on the internet?
It’s actually pretty simple. In some way or another, the scammers find a way to become dear to their victims. For all their victims know, they are trying to help a friend in need. Their friends, unfortunately, have spent enough time talking to their victims to learn their secrets. They know if someone is lonely, grieving a lost child who died in the service, or who might be looking for a new relationship after losing a spouse. This information allows scammers to say all the right things, which in turn throws victims off their games.
When a scammer begins the hustle, he will often start small. Can you wire some money to help pay for new boots? Can you send a prepaid credit card for this weekend’s trip off base? If you agree, the scammer will have bank accounts ready for you. These accounts are usually based overseas unless they launder it through someone else.
Though primarily based in foreign countries, military romance scammers have a complex network of people to help launder funds. A scammer might ask you to send funds directly to a relative, and that “relative” could actually be another one of their unsuspecting victims who has been asked to receive the funds and send them off to another destination. In doing so, the money becomes harder to trace and infinitely harder to recover.
As time passes, if the victim continues to send money to the scammer they will ask for larger sums and they will always up the ante by insisting that a family member needs help and that’s why they have to ask you for assistance. If you continue to send money, they will keep asking. Even if you say you have nothing more to give, they will continue to ask and beg and send you compelling reasons why you should help.
In some cases, if you refuse to send anymore money you might even get threats of being exposed for criminal wrongdoings. All of a sudden your friend will become an enemy and try to extort money from you.
Any time someone on the internet asks for money, it’s probably a scam. Even if you ask for proof of their identity, keep in mind that they will probably already have documents prepared from senior officers, or photos from their deployments. If you notice lots of spelling or syntax errors, you’re probably looking at the work of a scammer.
One of the best ways to identify a scammer is to insist on an in-person meeting prior to sending funds. If they make excuses as to why they can’t be at a meeting, or why they can’t talk on the phone, then you can bet that the person you’ve been talking with isn’t the person he claims to be.
If you suspect that you have been communicating with a scammer, the best course of action is to stop communicating with the individual and alert local police. Even if they issue threats against you or your family, you need to get the authorities involved.
It is important that you perform a quick background check on who you are actually speaking to on the internet (you can do that here). The common questions that spring to mind are:
- Are they using fake identities?
- Am I really speaking to a real person from the USA?
To help the users of this site we have partnered with BeenVerified so you can check exactly that. This checking service reveals everything about this would be romance scammer and if they are a real person!
Helpful Information Available on BeenVerified:
- Arrest Records (Please check this!)
- Photos (Helps check if same photos are used for multiple profiles with different names)
- Email Addresses
- Phone Numbers
- Social Profiles (IMPORTANT – Do they have a real social profile or multiple)
- Home Addresses
- Relatives & Associates
- Sex Offenders Register (Be safe who you are meeting!)
- And More…
If you have the slightest doubt about who you are speaking to… Please use this service!
The Bottom Line
Military romance scammers are all over the internet. They know that there are people who are willing to send them money out of the kindness of their hearts, and they’re willing to milk their victims for every dime they can.
These scammers know what they’re doing and they know it’s wrong but they’re not inclined to stop. The only way to keep them from scamming you is to be aware of their tactics and make sure that you know who you’re talking with online.
If you can’t talk on the phone or meet with someone in person, this should be a major red flag. As soon as the conversation turns to requests for money or assistance, be prepared to stop all communication immediately. It won’t make you a lesser person, rather it makes you a smart person. If you’re seen as a target by scammers, you could lose everything. Playing it safe, then, is definitely the best course of action.