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U.S. Army Social Media

ARMY SOCIAL MEDIA

Scams

U.S. Army Criminal Investigation Command (CID) receives hundreds of reports a month from individuals who have fallen victim to a scam perpetrated by a person impersonating a U.S. Soldier online.

Victims of these “romance scams” report they became involved in an online relationship with someone they believed to be a U.S. Soldier who then began asking for money for various false service-related needs. Victims of these scams can lose tens of thousands of dollars and face a slim likelihood of recovering any of it.

Victims may encounter these romance scammers on a legitimate dating website or social media platform, but they are not U.S. Soldiers. To perpetrate this scam, the scammers take on the online persona of a current or former U.S. Soldier, and then, using photographs of a Soldier from the internet, build a false identity to begin prowling the web for victims.

Never send money to someone claiming to be a Soldier!

The most common scheme involves criminals, often from other countries -- most notably from West African countries -- pretending to be U.S. Soldiers serving in a combat zone or other overseas location. These crooks often present documents and other "proof" of their financial need when asking their victims to wire money to them.

CID's Computer Crime Investigative Unit also cautions Soldiers themselves to be on the guard for "sextortion scams." In these scams, criminals engage in online sexual activity with unsuspecting Service members and then demand money or favors in exchange for not publicizing potentially embarrassing images, video or information.

Such scams, when they involve dating sites, pose a unique challenge in the fight against impostors and identity thieves, because on such sites a dating profile is often required to conduct a search for fake accounts. That makes it difficult for organizations to monitor those sites for impersonators using a Soldier’s or key leaders’ information in a scam.

In addition, it is not possible to remove dating site profiles without legitimate proof of identity theft or a scam. If you suspect fraud on a dating site, take a screenshot of any advances for money or impersonations and report the account on the platform immediately.

Types of scams

The Federal Bureau of Investigation Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3) has identified current and ongoing Internet trends and scams. The following scams affect military members:

U.S. Army Social Media
Be suspicious of a person who ...
  • Asks you for money for transportation costs, communication fees, marriage processing or medical fees. NEVER SEND MONEY!
  • Asks you to send money or ship property to a third party. Often times the company exists, but is not part of the scam.
  • Claims a lack of support or services provided to troops overseas.
  • Communicates only via social media or email.
  • Doesn't use an email address ending with ".mil." All military members have a ".mil" email address, so there is a high probability that a person is not in the military if they cannot provide one.
  • Uses common spelling, grammatical or language errors.
  • Speaks with a foreign or regional accent that does not match the person's story.
Tips to reduce vulnerability

Impersonations

The practice of impersonating Soldiers for financial gain is common. When impostor accounts are identified, it is important to report the accounts to the host platforms. Twitter allows users to create parody, satire, newsfeed, commentary, and fan accounts that mimic organizations if they indicate that they are “unofficial” or “fan” accounts.

Identifying an impostor

If you suspect you have identified an impostor account, you should confirm the account is not registered on the U.S. Army Social Media Directory.

Impostors are damaging not only to an individual’s reputation but also to the U.S. Army. It is important to know the warning signs of a scam or the common identifiers associated with an impostor account.

  • The account is not registered and/or verified.
  • The account has very few photos.
  • The photos are posted in the same date range.
  • The account has few followers or comments.
  • The account name and photos do not match.
  • There are obvious grammatical errors.
  • Key information is missing.

Official accounts will not send friend requests. If you receive a request from an account claiming to be a senior leader, report it.

The individuals or groups establishing impostor accounts can be clever — using different usernames, similar spellings, personal photos, official photos, and even changing the nametape on Soldier’s uniforms. Remember, anyone in the U.S. Army Family is vulnerable.

Staff Sergeant Salvatore Giunta, Medal of Honor Recipient, was impersonated on Twitter before being awarded the Medal of Honor. It is important to be aware that Twitter allows parody and fan accounts https://support.twitter.com/articles/106373. Once notified, Twitter marked the account as a “tribute” or “fan” account.

Reporting impostors

Soldiers, especially leaders, are prime targets for identity thieves who will use images posted online to create the fake accounts. It is good practice to search sites regularly for impostors. Impostor accounts are violations of terms of use agreements. Most social media platforms have a reporting system that allows users to report an individual who is pretending to be someone else.

If the platform is unresponsive and the impersonation becomes a threat to reputation or personal safety, contact your local public affairs office or the Digital Media Division for assistance.

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