The scope of online fraud has increased dramatically. Scammers will use almost anything that can arouse your feelings or emotions. Military Romance scams are one such scam where the scammers impersonate themselves as personnel from the military stranded somewhere or as military personnel who are romantically interested in you. As most of us will have intense feelings towards our military personnel, these scams are particularly dangerous.
These scams are prevalent and can cause significant financial and emotional harm to the victims. According to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), nearly 70,000 people reported a romance scam, with losses of $1.3 billion in 2022.
In this article, we’ll delve deeper into these scams, explaining how military romance scams work, how to identify these scams, and how to protect yourself.
How do military romance scams work?
These scams typically start with a fake profile scammer catfishing vulnerable people online. These scammers go to lengths to steal photo information and make the profile look legitimate to arouse the victim’s interest.
With the first step complete, the scammer contacts potential victims, usually through a dating app, website, or social media platform. Since military personnel excite emotions, the scammers may claim they are deployed in a war zone, on a peacekeeping mission, or need immediate assistance. They may also express their love and devotion quickly, using terms of endearment and flattering compliments.
You should avoid entertaining such requests from the scammers. In the next step, the scammer builds a relationship with the victim, often communicating through phone calls, text messages, emails, or video chats. They may also express their love and devotion quickly, using terms of endearment and flattering compliments.
After they have built a sufficiently close relationship with the victim, the scammer asks for favours from the victim, usually involving money, gift cards, or personal information. They may claim the funds are needed for travel expenses, medical bills, communication, or legal fees. They may also ask for personal information such as bank account details, social security numbers, or passwords that they can use for identity theft or extortion.
Once the victim has provided the information to the scammer, they will disappear with the money or may also try to blackmail the victim with compromising photos or videos they obtained during the relationship.
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How to identify military romance scams?
Military romance scams can be hard to spot, especially if unfamiliar with military protocol or culture. However, some red flags can help you identify a potential scammer and avoid becoming a victim:
- The scammer will claim to be from an English-speaking nation, but their English and grammar do not match that of someone born and raised in that region.
- When you ask to meet the scammer in person, they claim to be on a secret or special mission that prevents them from meeting you in person or talking on the phone or webcam.
- The scammer will ask for money and gift cards through untraceable methods such as wire transfers, prepaid cards, or cryptocurrency.
- The scammer will also try to gain your personal information, such as bank account details, social security numbers, or passwords they can use for identity theft or extortion.
- The scammer tells you they cannot wait to be with you and proposes marriage in a matter of weeks.
- The scammer tells you they are sending you something valuable, such as money, jewellery, or documents, through a diplomat or courier service.
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How to protect yourself from military romance scams?
If you suspect that you are being scammed by someone pretending to be a military member, here are some steps you can take to protect yourself and report the scam :
- If you suspect something fishy, stop contacting the scammer immediately and block them from contacting you again.
- Do not, in any circumstance, send money or gift cards to the scammer or anyone else claiming to be associated with them.
- Do not provide any personal information to the scammer.
- Do not open any link or attachment the scammer sends you, as they may contain malware or viruses.
- Do your research using online tools like reverse image search engines or social media platforms.
- Contact your bank and immediately block your account if you have shared any financial information with the scammer.
- Contact your local law enforcement authorities and report these scams. For example, you can report these scams at the Internet Crime Complaint Center run by the FBI and FTC’s fraud reporting webpage.
Scams are a serious problem that can affect anyone on the internet. Using your commonsense and a bit of awareness goes a long way in keeping yourself protected.
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