Army warns about social media scammers

Army warns about social media scammers
(Source: WAFF 48 News)

(WAFF) - Army investigators are working to make service members and the public aware of social media scams.

People are impersonating soldiers by using both real and made-up information to con people.

The U.S. Army Criminal Investigation Command's (CID) Computer Crime Investigative Unit (CCIU) is once again warning soldiers and the Army community to be on the lookout for social media scams where cybercriminals act like a member of the military to run a romance scam, as well as sales schemes and advance fee schemes.

They're using unsuspecting soldier's names, available social media photos and information from legitimate profiles to prey on vulnerable people's trusting nature and willingness to help those who serve our country and swindle them out of money.

Army investigators say those in the military should monitor their social media and limit the details you provide.

No one is immune from becoming a victim. Scammers steal the identity of senior officers, enlisted personnel and civilians.

While there is no definitive way to stop criminals from using your personal data and photos, take advantage of all security and safety features and protocols offered on your social media accounts.

Routinely search for your name on various social media platforms. Since scammers may use your photo but change the name, you should also conduct an image search of your social media profile pictures.

Creating a profile display name other than your actual name makes it more difficult for people who do not know you well to find your profile and fraudulently use your social media identity, investigators said.

They also recommend you carefully scrutinize the pictures you post of yourself or are posted by others for revealing details like your name tag, unit patch and rank

If you find yourself or a family member being impersonated online, CID warns that you should take immediate steps to have the fraudulent sites removed. Victims should contact the social media platform and report the false profile. 

Keep in mind that criminals create impersonation accounts to look just like the real account of a service member by using very similarly spelled names and replacing characters with dashes, spaces, and/or homoglyph characters. Be on the lookout for simple changes such as zeros (0) used instead of the letter "O" or a number one (1) instead of the letter "l". 

In romance schemes, scammers defraud victims by pretending to be service members seeking romance or in need of emotional support and companionship. In these scams, cybercriminals often derive information for their fictionalized military personas from official military websites and social networking websites where military families post information about their loved ones. 

Scammers gather enough detailed personal information, including pictures, to concoct believable stories tailored to appeal to a victim's emotions and then lure unsuspecting victims (most often women) into sending money to help them with transportation costs, marriage processing expenses, medical fees, communication fees such as laptops and satellite telephones. They typically promise to repay the victim when they finally meet; however, once the victim stops sending money, the scammer is not heard from again. 

Sales schemes are most frequently carried out on sites that facilitate sales of various products. Scammers lure victims by offering goods well below market price. Most scams involve vehicle sales, house rentals or similar big-ticket items. The scammer advertises an item for sale, at a to-good-to-be-true price, and describes it in the broadest of terms. 

A person showing interest is soon contacted by the "seller" who claims to be a service member with a military unit that is being deployed abroad. The scammer uses the pending deployment to explain the need for a quick sale and, hence, the below market sales price. The scammer insists that money changes hands quickly using some untraceable and irrevocable means such as Western Union, MoneyGram or gift cards. The merchandise is never received and the scammer is not heard from again.

With advance fee schemes, scammers defraud potential victims by promising big profits in exchange for help in moving large sums of money (or gold, oil, or some other commodity or contraband). Claiming to be high-ranking or well-placed government/military officials or the surviving spouse of former government leaders, the perpetrators offer to transfer significant amounts of money into the victim's bank account in exchange for a small fee. Some use photographs and biographical information of high-profile American military officials obtained from the internet. Scammers that receive payment are never heard from again.

The U.S. Army Criminal Investigation Command contributed to this article. Read more by clicking here.

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