Fake US Soldiers Robbing Women Online

Asking for Money Always a Red Flag, Military Advises

soldiers-in-Iraq-courtesy-of-US-Army-photo-by-US-Air-Force-Staff-Sgt-Jason-T.-Bailey.jpg
Image courtesy of the U.S. Army; photo by U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. Jason T. Bailey.

The U.S. Army Criminal Investigation Command (CID) warns that women in the U.S. and around the world are being scammed by persons pretending to be U.S. soldiers deployed in war zones. CID warns that these fake soldiers' promises of love and devotion only “end up breaking hearts and bank accounts.”

According to CID, the pretend heroes sink so low as to be using the names, ranks and even pictures of actual U.S. soldiers - some killed in action -- to target women 30 to 55 years old on social media and dating web sites.

"We cannot stress enough that people need to stop sending money to persons they meet on the internet and claim to be in the U.S. military," said Chris Grey, Army CID's spokesman in a press release. "It is heartbreaking to hear these stories over and again of people who have sent thousands of dollars to someone they have never met and sometimes have never even spoken to on the phone."

According to Grey, the scams typically employ clever, romantically worded requests for money to help the fake “deployed soldier” buy special laptop computers, international telephones, military leave applications, and transportation fees needed to keep the budding “relationship” going.

"We've even seen instances where the perpetrators are asking the victims for money to 'purchase leave papers' from the Army, help pay for medical expenses from combat wounds received, or help pay for their flight home so they can leave the war zone," said Grey.

Victims who get worried and ask to actually talk to the fake soldiers are typically told the Army does not allow them to make phone calls or that they need money to "help keep the Army internet running." Another common thread, according to Grey is for the "soldier" to claim to be a widower raising a child or children on their own.

"These perpetrators, often from other countries, most notably from West African countries are good at what they do and quite familiar with American culture, but the claims about the Army and its regulations are ridiculous," said Grey.

Report Them

All forms of financial fraud, which is exactly what these fake, "love for money" soldiers are trying to pull, can now be reported through the StopFraud.gov website

Military Leave is Always Earned, Never Bought

No branch of the U.S. military charges service members money for permission to take leave. Leave is earned, not purchased. As the U.S. Army Criminal Investigation Command recommends: Never Send Money - "Be extremely suspicious if you are asked for money for transportation costs, communication fees or marriage processing and medical fees."

In addition, be very suspicious if the person you are corresponding with wants you to mail anything to an African country.

Where to Turn Them In

If you suspect or know you have been victimized by a fake soldier scammer, you can report the incident to the FBI's Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3).

Out of a concern for the safety and privacy of their servicemembers, all branches of the U.S. military have removed their web-based, online personnel locator services.

Scams Targeting Veterans, Military Personnel, and Retirees

In another despicable outgrowth of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, the IRS warns of email phishing scams targeting veterans, current military personnel, and retirees receiving VA disability benefits. The emails falsely claim that individuals currently receiving disability compensation from the Department of Veteran Affairs (VA) may be eligible to obtain additional funds from the IRS.

The emails come from a bogus outfit calling itself Defense Finance and Accounting Services, and while the email address ends with a “.mil” domain, it is not a legitimate government military email address.

The email promises the victims that by sending copies of their VA award letters, income tax returns, 1099-Rs, Retiree Account Statements, and DD-214s to a colonel at an address in Florida, they can receive additional money from the IRS. Of course, as the IRS points out, they cannot and will not. In fact, by giving the non-existent “colonel” the personal financial information shown on the requested documents, the victims could face financial disaster.

To avoid falling victim to this or similar scams, the IRS reminders taxpayers to watch out for the following:

  • Fictitious claims for refunds or rebates based on false statements of entitlement to tax credits
  • Emails from unfamiliar senders asking for personal information
  • Internet solicitation that direct individuals to toll-free numbers and then solicit Social Security numbers or other personal information

The IRS never contacts taxpayers by email. The IRS initiates most contacts with taxpayers through regular mail delivered by the United States Postal Service.