Scumbags of the Week: Military Dating Scam – Internet Scammers Pose As Deployed US Soldiers, Bilk Money & Break Hearts
Posted By Vicki McClure Davidson on July 28, 2010
Parents aren’t the only ones who must be vigilant and keep abreast of their children’s online correspondences to prevent criminal pedophiles and rapists from impersonating teens and manipulating their kids.
Women, via online dating services, corresponding with soldiers in Afghanistan or Iraq may actually be corresponding with accomplished, heartless con artists.
Internet scammers have discovered a new source of income: posing online as deployed US soldiers who romance and connive women, not just Americans, into sending them money. Online “love scams” — a multi-billion-dollar business — have been going on for years, many of which originate in Nigeria and utilize online dating services. How long scammers have been impersonating US troops is unclear. Not all who are scammed report it, being too ashamed and/or heartbroken.
Soulless, lowlife scumbags… preying on the emotions of people who are searching for companionship, for love. Many of the online dating scams use the stolen photos of soldiers who have been killed in action as a lure.
Stopping these vile con artists has proven to be next to impossible for law enforcement… the next best thing is to spread the word — knowledge is power.
Jasonville, Indiana (CNN) — Last Christmas, Stacey Chapman hung a stocking, anxiously awaiting the homecoming of the all-American soldier she had met online and planned to marry.
But he never came home. After some research, Chapman discovered the 20-year-old blond in fatigues pictured in the online dating profile, Spc. Brian Browning, had died in Iraq three years ago. And the man she had been e-mailing and chatting with for the last six months, who went by the name “Christain Browning,” was really a scammer posing as an American soldier.
“He made me believe he was falling for me, that he was completely in love with me, that he was a soldier over there defending our country,” said Chapman, a recently separated mother of two. “I think I had a big red flag on me that said, ‘very lonely, very vulnerable.'”
Chris Grey, a spokesman for the Army’s Criminal Investigation Command, told CNN his division has received hundreds of complaints of scammers using the photos of U.S. soldiers in dating and social websites in the last year. CNN has learned the scammers have used photos of both living and dead troops, including high-ranking Army officials and even generals assigned to the Pentagon.
Many of the soldiers are fighting overseas, unaware that their photos — stolen off the web — are being used unless they’re contacted by the duped victims. But often, as in the case of Stacey Chapman, the impostor uses a variation on the soldier’s name, making the real soldier hard to find.
A broken-hearted Chapman lost more than $1,200 that she sent via Western Union for what she thought was his plane ticket home. And while the financial hit hurt, it didn’t compare to the emotional toll.
“What a lowlife he was, trying to actually portray a soldier that had died in the war,” Chapman said. “I had fallen for him, and he had ran with it and taken me for not only my money, (but) my heart.”
Grey said the military can’t do anything to stop the scam because U.S. soldiers aren’t the perpetrators. The best solution, he said, is to get the word out.
CNN contacted the Browning family in Astoria, Oregon, after learning that the photo of their fallen son had been used in the online romance scam. Spc. Brian Browning’s father, Perry Browning, didn’t take the news lightly.
“It makes me madder now more than anything, because some scumbag is using my son’s good name and honor to pillage women,” Browning said.
Browning’s father had a message for Stacey Chapman, the woman who planned to marry his “son.” The real Brian Browning was a loving son and a caring and funny character, he said.
“She fell in love with a nice picture of a young man. My son was a worthy person. He was worth falling in love with,” Browning said. Chapman is “every much a victim in this as my son Brian was,” he added.
“This guy is just trying to make a buck off of everybody’s heart. Crappy bastard,” he said.
From SIU, CNN, Scammers, Be Gone!:
Why isn’t more being done to stop online imposters who steal photos of soldiers they find on the Internet, and then fraudulently post them on dating websites to scam women out of money? Sometimes these scammers even use photos they find of soldiers who were killed while at war.
We reached out to the Army, the Secret Service, the FBI, the State Department, Federal Trade Commission and the National White Collar Crime Center to find out if anyone was trying to track down these scammers. All say, unfortunately, there is little they can do. Of course, the feds can take your complaint, but they say they are not actively pursuing the imposters, mostly because they are operating from outside the United States and are very mobile, often from internet cafes.
I can only imagine how frustrating that must be for both the women who are scammed and the soldiers whose names and photos have been stolen. The reason the Army says it cannot go after these scam artists is because the soldier is not the perpetrator, which means the crime does not fall under the Army’s jurisdiction.
From The Leaf Chronicle, Fort Hood soldier spreading word about online love scam:
Master Sgt. C.J. Grisham is currently preparing for a deployment to Afghanistan, but is also in the midst of a fight against people preying on Americans looking for love.
Grisham has discovered a possible scam in which predators use a soldier’s likeness to lure in people interested in a relationship and get them to send money for various reasons.
Grisham has dozens of photos of soldiers posted on his blog website that are blatantly incorrectly identified and stories about people who send money to what they think is a needy love interest.
Grisham said it’s hard to know how much money is heading to places like Nigeria, Mauritania and Ghana, places he knows the scammers are originating from.
“This is hundreds of thousands of dollars going overseas. Who knows what it’s funding,” he said.
From Telegraph, British victim of ‘romance fraud’ tells of ordeal:
Sarah Cook thought she had met someone special. The mother of two children had done what many lonely Britons do, and registered with an internet dating site.
Within weeks of entering a new online world of flirtation and romance, she met a US army sergeant serving in Iraq. They would chat online almost daily, swapping stories about his life on base with hers in a West Country town, and over the next 18 months their relationship deepened.
Mrs Cook, 52, was fascinated by his stories of dodging bombs, coping with explosions and living in the Iraqi desert. She would not say she was falling in love, but she was excited by this intriguing soldier with whom she felt she had a genuine connection — so much so that she was willing to help him financially.
But the charming American was not what he appeared. A few days ago, police in Ghana arrested Maurice Asola Fadola, 31, the man suspected of posing as the soldier and conning Mrs Cook out of £271,000.
Her case is thought to be the most serious example of a new kind of fraud, with international con men preying on emotionally vulnerable westerners. Police estimate that Britons are losing hundreds of millions of pounds through internet dating sites in “romance frauds”.
Mrs Cook (not her real name) does not appear a gullible or foolish woman. Yet, like other victims of the frauds, she was slowly and skilfully drawn in to a web of deceit woven by a resourceful and apparently talented liar.
From NetPatrol, Military Personnel scam: Scammer impersonates US soldier:
A romantic scam which makes the victim (mostly a woman) believe that the scammer is a U.S. soldier stationed in Iraq. There are several variations of the scam and below are the details.
What is the scam? There are two variations of the scam – the romantic version or the advance fee variation. Basically, the scammer wants to connect to you (often, a woman), get to know you and love you for what you are. He makes you believe that he is a U.S. soldier battling between life and death in Iraq. Then, once he knows his victim is hooked, he lures you into buying (and paying) for a mobile phone through which you can talk to him. Once the payment is done, you become a victim and you never get what you paid for. Often, victims continue connecting to this person till he loots a huge amount of money from them.
How does the scam work? Military Soldier/Personnel scams work on two emotions – romance/sympathy. In the romantic version of the scam, the scammer tries to establish a romantic online relationship with his victim. Often, the scammer may also talk over phone to ensure his victim is completely hooked to him. Then, he would ask money for any of the three things – 1. Obtaining leave to meet the victim, 2. Obtaining a phone to talk to the victim, and 3. Help with transferring huge amount of money.
In the first case, the scammer will introduce you to his senior officials and let them explain to you the leave process and the money to be paid to obtain leave. After you pay the money, the scammer will tell another fictitious reason to meet his current obstacle. This will continue until the victim is willing to pay money. In the second case, the scammer will play with your emotions and say that he is to be deployed to an area without any phone connections/Internet/communications. He will say that you need to buy Military Telex, an expensive communication device to talk to him. You will be asked to pay for a satellite phone/service and pay for it. In some cases, you will be sent to an official-looking telecommunications website through which you will be asked to pay.
The third case is also a case of Advance Fee Variation of the scam. In this variation of the scam, the scammer may tell you that he has a huge amount of money stashed away somewhere and needs help in getting it out of the country. He will say that he plans to get the money out through “diplomatic courier” and will introduce you to his lawyer who convinces you on the fees that need to be paid for completing the transaction. Most of the time, the scammer will request the victim to pay this fees through Western Union or Money Gram and offer you a large portion of the amount in exchange for assisting in this transaction. And like every other Advance Fee Frauds, you will never get the large amount of money as there is no such money.
How to stop the scam? If you are a victim of this scam, stop all communications with the scammer. Never send any money across to him, whatever be his reasons.