(KUSA) - Every year thousands of women are swindled by fraudsters pretending to be U.S. service members stationed overseas. Military investigators say the victims are often women, 30 to 55 years old, who are wooed online through social media or dating websites.
The scams frequently use photos of real soldiers. Sometimes they also use the true name and rank of the soldier pictured. The perpetrators may spend months creating false profiles including hometowns and relatives. Often the real soldiers have no idea their identities are being used inappropriately.
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The Army's Criminal investigation Command says the fraudsters typically operate out of West African countries. The scams often involve online messages to the victim that intersperse romantic language with requests for special laptop computers, international telephones, military leave papers or transportation fees. There can be requests to wire large sums of money.
Military officials stress that they provide service members in combat zones with all required communication, transportation, and medical services. Soldiers do not need additional money for doctor bills or for travel to the United States on leave.
Here are some tips from the Army's Criminal Investigation Command:
•Be extremely suspicious if you are asked to send money or ship property to a third party.
•Research what you are being told. Get help from a current or former service member to validate claims.
•Be very suspicious if you never get to talk to the "soldier" on the phone.
•Be suspicious if they can't provide a military address where they can receive regular mail.
•Watch out for grammatical errors in emails.
To report a suspected internet romance scam, contact the FBI's Internet Crime Complaint Center: http://www.ic3.gov/default.aspx