March 26, 2010

Army Officials Warn Of Online Scams

U.S. Army officials are warning Internet users to be wary of inquiries from individuals claiming to be members of the armed forces, warning that they may be scam artists trying to prey on romantic or patriotic feelings in an attempt to gain access to financial accounts or other personal information.

The CID reports that these individuals will often pretend to be American servicemen stationed in Iraq or Afghanistan. They often are able to obtain the name and rank of a real U.S. soldier, obtain a photograph of the servicemen by searching online, then use the false identity to find and target victims.

"We are seeing a number of scams being perpetrated on the internet, especially on social, dating-type websites where females are the main target," Chris Grey, a spokesperson for the Army's Criminal Investigation Command Division (CID), said in statement released this week.

The scams, according to Grey, range from "perpetrators...asking the victims for money to 'purchase leave papers' from the Army or help pay for their flight home so they can leave the war zone" to contributing in order to "help keep the Army internet running" to asking for assistance because the military "won't allow the soldier to access their personal bank accounts or credit cards."

At times they also ask for money in order to purchase a special phone or laptop computer, which allegedly is required so that they remain in contact and continue the supposed relationship. These fraudulent requests can be for many thousands of dollars, and the mark is usually asked to send the money to what is referred to as a third-party address.

"These are not soldiers, they are thieves," Gray warns. "These perpetrators, often from other countries, most notably from Ghana, Angola and Nigeria, are good at what they do and quite familiar with American culture, but the claims about the Army and its regulations are ridiculous."

CID officials state that the scams are usually perpetrated using untraceable email accounts, typically available through one of the more popular free webmail services.

They warn anyone who believes they might be targeted to contact a current or former service member to verify information provided by the sender. Many of the complaints regarding the lack of services or supports are patently untrue, according to CID officials.

Also, they advise asking to speak to the individual on the phone, or send a letter to their APO or FPO mailing address, and to become suspicious if the other party refuses or cannot provide a valid overseas military address. They also say to be wary of any request to send money to a third-party, and to check emails for common spelling or grammar errors.


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