Romance scammers love to pose as US soldiers deployed in Afghanistan or Iraq. It allows them to create distance, and claim the area is top secret and restricted from having a video conversation. It is a good cover.
There are many scams fraudulent soldier use to obtain money. One of the popular ones is they need to pay to go on leave/vacation. Imagine that, they say US soldiers must pay the military to take a vacation. The scammer further explains that since he is in a combat zone, his bank does not allow him to make wire transfers or use his debit card. The scammer becomes a victim of circumstance and asks the real victim to pay. The magic number is usually around ten thousand dollars.
Then there is the email from a lawyer who claims your so-called soldier boy has been arrested and is in jail. The soldier desperately needs your help to pay for a lawyer. That figure too is usually around ten thousand dollars. Ironically, your soldier will continue to email and text. He will complain that he is dying, and cannot take it anymore, and please save him. You the soldier savior.
Then there is the box scam. The scammer plans a visit and will ship some items in advance. Like in all scams, something happens, a secret mission, vacation canceled, ill, or legal problem. Then comes the hit, a shipping company contacts you and the package payment did not go through. The scammer is desperate for the package; he has one hundred thousand dollars in cash or even a few gold bars in the box. You visit the shipping company's website and the fee is five or six thousand dollars.
One scammer duped a client into sending ten thousand dollars for an operation. He said he was shot while out on patrol, and that soldiers are responsible for their own medical needs.
There are fake hackers targeting victims of romance scams. A client hired someone claiming he could hack into a scammers information and trace her stolen funds. Twenty-four hours later the client received a picture of what the hacker claimed to be a bitcoin blockchain. He said it belonged to the scammer; and guaranteed recovery of 100% of her funds.
The victim was directed to open a bitcoin wallet and purchase five-thousand euros of bitcoin. Then send the hacker the bitcoin, and after receipt of payment, the hacker would complete the hack and transfer her hundred thousand euros. Before sending off the five-thousand, the client asked me if what the hacker told her was possible; were they legitimate. I doubted the claim.
The client supplied the hacker with a name and Western Union transaction number in Nigeria. The hacker said he traced the cash transaction and miraculously located a hundred grand. Think about that, a man walks into a Western Union, receives cash, steps out and the hacker tracers paper currency to digital currency. I think not!
I try to understand how people become victims of romance scams. What I discovered is that there is no one answer to the question. However, there is one consistent, and that is the savvy of scammers. The problem is victims are sole individuals, where scammers are usually a group of organized criminals. The odds make the victim a loser from the start.
I think one of the solutions to protect against online dating scams is to be skeptical of everyone you come in contact with on the internet. There should be no compromise in this way of thinking. If you are engaging in online dating, the attitude must be, that all are scammers until proven otherwise. Proven otherwise is not a passport, photos of family, or a certificate that they have been awarded a million dollar work project.
The first action of proof is a video, a real video where you can see the face as if it were the Mona Lisa on the wall of the Louvre. Did the eyes blink, lips move, and was there a smile? Without a face-to-face video, you have no idea who you are chatting with in your text or on Google Hangouts.
The second action is to think of yourself first. Under no circumstances should another person's problems affect your life. The second a person asks for financial help is the second you block them. If your counter-part claims he has business issues, and needs your help, say no. Even if he offers a high-interest rate return on your dollar; if it is too good to be true, it usually is!
If by chance you already sent money do not send another payment. If the scammer tells you a second payment will get your money back, it is a lie. They are priming you for the chase, where you are chasing your money. Take your loss and move on!
If a recovery company, law enforcement agency, lawyer, solicitor or investigator contacts you and states they found your scammer and can get your money back it is a scam. Do not communicate, block them!
Protect yourself at all cost; your life savings might be at risk!
Frank M. Ahearn educates victims on romance scams.
He is the author of the New York Times Best Seller How to Disappear.
Email Addresss: ID@Scam.Guru