Military dating scams are nothing new. Milbloggers and civilian journalists have been exposing and reporting on these cons for years. It just so happens that I count one such milblogger as a friend and so I was well aware when Glamour magazine worked with him in 2012 on getting the word out everywhere.
(And indeed, the only way I would have known about Glamour’s report is because they were working with Army Master Sergeant CJ Grisham. Fashion magazines in general are accessories I do without, as anyone could tell by looking at me, but I digress.)
Glamour reported in its October, 2012 issue on a wide variety of dating scams all estimated to cheat women out of at least a total of four thousand dollars every hour. However, embarrassment over having been duped likely keeps a lot of victims for reporting these crimes, so the figure is likely to be much higher.
And I don’t like it- with the most burning acidic rage you can possibly read into those simple words “I don’t like it.”
A quick Google search can yield an abundance of information about online dating safety, types of scams, and the behavior one can expect from a scammer. Different types of scams include:
The Emergency Scam
Plane Ticket & Visa Scam
Cashing Money Order Scam
Disaster Relief Scams
Business Investment Scams
Sometimes, scammers rope their victims into abetting other crimes like check fraud or reshipping of stolen or illegally purchased property. Of course they don’t come right out and invite strangers into a life of victimization and crime. They typically take several steps first.
1. Scammers post fake profiles and attractive pictures on dating and/or social networking sites.
2. Scammer send out messages or friendship requests. They can either be sent out en masse, or to specifically targeted individuals.
3. If any messages or requests get responses, scammers then encourages potential victims away from the site’s standard messaging channels toward more personal correspondence like email.
4. Once they’ve established their victim’s misplaced trust and forged a bond, then they start requesting money or bizarre favors.
And, of course, throughout the whole process, they lie like carpets on a stained floor. They’ll lie about their ages, jobs, where they live, how they really look, and so forth. A typical dating scam might involve someone lying about being a model or a poor, aspiring actor. And when they’re about to really sink their teeth into a victim, they’ll come up with some heart-wrenching sob story.
The typical dating scam can be identified a number of ways, but generally, if something doesn’t feel right to you, it probably isn’t. Military dating scams can also be easily recognized if you know how to look for details. A military scammer is likely to demonstrate ignorance of military rankings, uniforms, and policies. They may snag pictures of other people and repost them as pictures of themselves, or they may have acquired uniforms from military surplus or even off the black market. Those who post pictures of themselves “in uniform,” are likely to wear them wrong and wear insignia that does not reflect their claimed rank or skills. And if you ask them questions about their MOS, their specific job in the military, they suddenly claim it’s classified, and then they change the subject and want to know more about you.
Military scammers also run some slightly different variations of the aforementioned dating scams. They may ask victims to “help” pay for phone or internet service so they can stay in touch while deployed. If they claim they’re about to retire, they may ask for “help,” in the form of your money and personal information of course, applying for a “military retirement account.” They might claim they are returning home- whether for good, for a short leave, or for some emergency- and need help paying for their flight. They may claim they want to send some of their personal belongings to you before their return, and need help paying some shipping agency. What you need to know is that the military pays for flights home. There are no such things as military retirement accounts, you don’t need to help anyone apply for one, and you don’t need to pay extra for phone or internet just to keep in touch with someone who is deployed.
In other words, if they request money, don’t send it, and don’t give any of your information to any third party “military” agency.
Thanks in part to the abundant information MSgt. Grisham provided, I’ve been able to avoid being scammed. But I have been targeted along with other people I know. Consequently, I’ve got a lot more to say on the subject, and apparently there is still a need to alert the well-meaning civilian population.
Meanwhile, you can check out MSgt. Grisham’s posts on the subject here.