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Online Dating: How to Verify a Soldier in Afghanistan

Online Dating: How to Verify a Soldier in Afghanistan

The U.S. Army Criminal Investigation Command (CID) receives hundreds of reports of victims of military scams every day.  So does our investigation team. Online criminals claiming to be U.S. military service members serving in Afghanistan are all around the web luring their victims into a romance scam.

No social network or online dating site is immune from fraud. Army uniforms and titles are all easy to create or steal online, and are commonly used in these crooks profiles. Pictures and names are usually stolen from real soldiers deployed in Afghanistan. But how can you tell who is legit and who is not?  After all, many of our heroes are actually serving in the country, and they still use the Internet.

Spotting fake soldier profiles

Scammers have one main goal in life, which is trying to get money. So, the request for financial assistance for any matter is the most important sign of all. It is important to consider that con artists are smart and are perfectly aware that a money request early in a “relationship” is too suspicious.  An emotional connection needs to be built before attempting money requests, and according to many of the cases that professional private investigators work, crooks are very successful with this. They know that building trust takes time.  So if you have an online relationship with a soldier, and he has not requested money yet, it does not necessarily mean he’s legitimate, it might just mean that the criminal is taking his time. Running a dating background check at the beginning of your online relationship will definitely give you an answer.

Fake soldiers often claim they have unresolved issues back home that need to be taken care by someone in the United States. Some of the most common claims include trouble with their children –like being sick and needing to pay for healthcare, or they haven´t been able to pay the nanny- or trouble with obligations like rent.  In these cases, usually the criminal is located overseas, but in today’s sophisticated world of online scams and fraud, criminals can be located anywhere, even down the road in your home town.

Others claim they need money for their expenses because their payment check has not arrived yet, due to the mail service or other problems. In most cases the financial assistance should be sent through a friend of his or hers, and the criminal accomplice can be located anywhere in the world.  Criminals in countries like Ghana, Nigeria, South Africa, Malaysia, Romania, the Ukraine and Russia are known to engage in military scams.  Investigators caution that scammers can be located anywhere in the world, and requesting money is not always the objective.  Sometimes con artists will simply try to gather or steal your information, so they can blackmail you or steal your identity.  Your data is valuable, protect it!

How you can avoid being victim

The first and most important thing is to get informed about soldier scams.  When you learn about the common schemes used it´s harder to fall victim.  Scam websites and blacklists with names and email addresses are not very helpful, mainly because scammers easily change the name, profile and email account used regularly.  In some cases, a real identity is stolen, making it nearly impossible to verify.

Ask yourself how serious are you about this relationship. If you really feel interested in developing a relationship, get a background check. It is worth to know for sure who you are dealing with. Romance scams can go on for years before the victim finds out the truth.  The sooner you discuss the facts with a reputable private investigator, the safer you are.  Too many victims contact a private investigation company after the damage is done, rather than obtaining a background check investigation early.

If you met someone online who claims to be in the military, be safe! Victims of internet scams rarely recover their losses, although there are some exceptions.  There are a lot of great men and women serving in Afghanistan who are online, but a bit of skepticism can go a long way.

C. Wright
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