By Ms. Lindsey R Monger (ATEC)April 10, 2017
REDSTONE ARSENAL, Ala. -- While the Army has seen a spike in impostor accounts for senior leaders, any service member can be a target of cyber-crime.
Cyber impostors use information they can capture from publically accessible websites and social media platforms such as Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, to assist them in pretending to be someone they are not.
"It's so easy for imposters to get information about people because everything is either on the social media platforms or on the internet," said Dawn Dunkerley, Army Materiel Command's Cyber Division chief. "This is an Army-wide problem."
Service members are at the top of the impostors' list.
According to the U.S. Army Criminal Investigation Command, or CID, citizens worldwide have been the victims of scams in which cyber criminals impersonated U.S. service members.
"The military is highly respected," said CID Spokesperson Chris Grey, explaining why service members are primarily targeted. "Impostors will often play on the emotions and patriotism of the victims to trick them into believing the impostor."
CID sees hundreds of these instances where a scammer, posing as a soldier, tricks victims into believing they are "in a relationship" with an American Soldier, and then hustling the victim out of money.
As social media continues to evolve, so will the number of online impersonators and the better they will get at performing the activity.
"The Army has seen a big rise in the number of impostor accounts," said Dunkerley. "Impostors will start influencing those people and have them believe something that is not true."
Even though impostors will continue to search for victims, steps can be taken to help reduce the impostors' ability for stealing identities, Dunkerley explained.
"People need to understand the privacy settings on their social media accounts and be able to differentiate between a verified and unverified account," she said.
The Army's Social Media Handbook lists ways to identify a scam or an impostor account. Impostor accounts may: not be registered or verified; have few photos; post photos in the same date range; have few followers or comments; have account name and photos that do not match; have obvious grammatical errors; and have key information missing.
Impostor accounts on social media platforms violate the term of use agreements, and as a result, most platforms have a reporting system that allows users to report an individual who is pretending to be someone else.
Even though this problem can't be fully fixed, Dunkerley encourages social media users to place very strict privacy settings on their accounts and always be aware of ongoing updates and changes.
The civilian workforce should be on the lookout for scammers, as they could be potential targets for impostors.
Popular scams include requests for money for transportation costs, communication fees, marriage processing and medical fees. CID encourages research on any person claiming to be a service member, and use caution if they cannot speak over the phone. One way to verify if someone is in the military is their .mil email address.
"Our Army Materiel Command senior leaders do not have official presences on social media," said Col. Rich Spiegel, AMC director of Public Affairs. "If you get contacted by Gen. Gus Perna or Lt. Gen. Larry Wyche through Facebook or another social media platform, this is an imposter and should be reported to the social media platform immediately."
If suspected a victim of impostors, report through the designated social media platform reporting system, or contact the Federal Trade Commission at https://www.ftc.gov/ and Internet Crime Complaint Center at https://www.ic3.gov/default.aspx. For more information, review the Army's Social Media Handbook at https://www.army.mil/e2/rv5_downloads/socialmedia/army_social_media_handbook.pdf.