3 kinds of scams that target US service members, and how to avoid them

US military twitter cellphone scam scammer

  • As scams proliferate, thanks to ease of access to the internet,
    US military service members are increasingly targeted.
  • Several types of specific scams target service members, but
    there are some steps they can take to avoid being a victim.
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    Insider’s homepage for more stories

WASHINGTON — Nowadays, you have to be cautious of everything
you do online. Scammers are always trying to get money, goods or
services out of unsuspecting people — and military members are
often targets.

Here are some scams that have recently been affecting service
members, Defense Department employees and their families.

Army cybercrimes investigator’s tips to keep your personal
information away from social-media scammers

Romance scams

In April, Army Criminal Investigation Command put out a warning
about romance scams in which online predators go on dating sites
claiming to be deployed active-duty soldiers. It’s a problem that’s
affecting all branches of service — not just the Army.

CID said there have been hundreds of claims each month from
people who said they’ve been scammed on legitimate dating apps and
social media sites. According to the alleged victims, the scammers
have asked for money for fake service-related needs such as
transportation, communications fees, processing and medical fees
— even marriage. CID said many of the victims have lost tens of
thousands of dollars and likely won’t get that money back.

Remember: Service members and government employees DO NOT PAY to
go on leave, have their personal effects sent home or fly back to
the US from an overseas assignment. Scammers will sometimes provide
false paperwork to make their case, but real service members make
their own requests for time off. Also, any official military or
government emails will end in .mil or .gov — not .com — so be
suspicious if you get a message claiming to be from the military or
government that doesn’t have one of those addresses.

If you’re worried about being scammed, know what red flags to
look for. If you think you’ve been a victim, contact the FBI
Internet Crime Complaint Center and the Federal Trade

DOD officials said task forces are working to deal with the
growing problem, but the scammers are often from African nations
and are using cyber cafes with untraceable email addresses, then
routing their accounts across the world to make them incredibly
difficult to trace. So be vigilant!


Sexual extortion — known as “sextortion” — is when a service
member is seduced into sexual activities online that are
unknowingly recorded and used against them for money or goods.
Often, if a victim caves on a demand, the scammer will just likely
demand more.

Service members are attractive targets for these scammers for a
few reasons:

• They’re often young men who are away from home and have an
online presence.

• They have a steady income and are often more financially
stable than civilians.

• Because of their careers, they’re held to a higher standard
of conduct.

• Military members have security clearances and know things
that might be of interest to adversaries.

To avoid falling victim to sextortion, don’t post or exchange
compromising photos or videos with ANYONE online, and make sure
your social media privacy settings limit the information outsiders
can see — this includes advertising your affiliation with the
military or government. Be careful when you’re communicating with
anyone you don’t personally know online, and trust your instincts.
If people seem suspicious, stop communicating with them.

DOD officials said sextortion often goes unreported because many
victims are embarrassed they fell for it. But it happens worldwide
and across all ranks and services. Here’s what you should do about
it if it happens to you:

• Stop communicating with the scammer.

• Contact your command and your local CID office.

• Do NOT pay the perpetrator.

• Save all communications you had with that person.

Service member impersonation scams

Scammers love to impersonate people of authority, and that
includes service members.

These people often steal the identity or profile images of a
service member and use them to ask for money or make claims that
involve the sale of vehicles, house rentals or other big-ticket
items. These scammers often send the victim bogus information about
the advertised product and ask for a wire transfer through a third
party to finish the purchase, but there’s no product at the end of
the transaction.

Lately, fake profiles of high-ranking American military
officials have been popping up on social media websites using
photos and biographical information obtained from the internet.
Scammers often replicate recent social media posts from official
DOD accounts and interact with official accounts to increase the
appearance of legitimacy. As an example, there are impersonator
accounts on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter for Marine Corps Gen.
Joe Dunford, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

These accounts are also interacting with Joint Staff account
followers in an effort to gain trust and elicit information. The
only Joint Staff leader with an official social media presence is
Senior Enlisted Advisor to the Chairman Army Command Sgt. Maj. John
Wayne Troxell, who is listed as @SEAC.JCS on Facebook and
@SEAC_Troxell on Twitter.

Scammers are making these profiles to defraud potential victims.
They claim to be high-ranking or well-placed government/military
officials or the surviving spouse of former government leaders,
then they promise big profits in exchange for help in moving large
sums of money, oil or some other commodity. They offer to transfer
significant amounts of money into the victim’s bank account in
exchange for a small fee. Scammers that receive payment are never
heard from again.

Here are some ways to lower the chances of you being impersonated
or duped by a scammer:

• To avoid having your personal data and photos stolen from
your social media pages, limit the details you provide on them and
don’t post photos that include your name tag, unit patch and

• If an alleged official messages you with a request or
demand, look closely at their social media page. Often, official
accounts will be verified, meaning they have a blue circle with a
checkmark right beside their Twitter, Facebook or Instagram name.
General and flag officers will not message anyone directly
requesting to connect or asking for money.

• Search for yourself online — both your name and images
you’ve posted — to see if someone else is trying to use your
identity. If you do find a false profile, contact that social media
platform and report it.

Source: FS – All Tech News
3 kinds of scams that target US service members, and how to avoid them