STAY SAFE AND VIGILANT! SCAMMERS LOVE TO USE COVID-19 AS PART OF THEIR SCAM STORY!
STAY SAFE AND VIGILANT! SCAMMERS LOVE TO USE COVID-19 AS PART OF THEIR SCAM STORY!
Innocent people's photos have been stolen and used by scammers amongst every social media platform as a way to lure victims for financial gain. Copied photos and fake identification bring a fake story to life, often, with a devastating end for many. Here are a few testimonies from identity theft victims...
I am Colonel Bryan Denny, A Retired U.S. Army Colonel. My pictures have been widely used by scammers on the social & dating sites for years. The thought of our military men & women being abused and disrespected is appalling!
Someone was telling me, `Don`t worry, as you get older, they`ll stop using your pictures.` But the thing is, the pictures never age. They don`t go away. This can go on for freaking ever if we don`t do something about it.
Over the last year, I started receiving many messages from men telling me they thought they were in a romantic relationship with me due to being lured in by fake social media profiles using my pictures. These men have collectively spent thousands of dollars, with one man claiming he spent tens of thousands of dollars thinking the money was going directly to me.
When I asked why they thought I needed the money, they stated the fake profiles came up with a myriad of reasons from I needed a plane ticket home, because the military abandoned me overseas, to I needed money for my kids because I was a single mother and stuck overseas with my kids.
These men thought they were in very intimate relationships with me based on what the scammers were texting them. They received photos that were photoshopped with my face on naked bodies, the scammers were also stealing pictures of my kids and sending them to these unsuspecting men to further play on their emotions.
I`ve noticed the age and population the scammers were targeting were those in their 50`s - 60`s. I believe they do this because they know most in that age range are naive to social media, and are more trusting, especially when they see someone in uniform. This population are more likely not to be familiar with "catfishing" and what these scammers are capable of. Most of these men seem to be either divorced or widowed, and looking for companionship.
To avoid being scammed, it is important to recognize a potentially fake profile. Here are my observations on these fake profiles that you should look out for:
1. The profile is newer (within the last couple of months).
2. Most of the pictures/posts are uploaded within days of each other. Most real profiles will not have so many pictures and post uploaded the same day, or within days of each other. What is happening is the pictures are acquired around the same time the profile is started, and they upload many pictures all at once to make the profile seem real. Pay attention to the dates up the posts!
3. There will be a lot of broken English on the posts, or the same kind of verbiage in all of the posts. A lot of times it will be one sentence. Most real people who post will have a lengthy comment on their post, or at least on a few of them.
4. Look at who follows these people and who they follow. Many times these fake profiles will follow a lot of the same demographics (older gentlemen or older women). These is because they`re casting a wide net on this demographic and looking for anyone who will bite at the bait. The bait is usually a direct message with a "hello" or "you`re beautiful/handsome,"etc.
5. Follow your instinct. If you`re feeling like it`s too good to be true, it usually is. Try and research the person they`re claiming to be on the internet. I`ve been told by many they found me by simply doing a google search of my name.
6. Ask to video chat with these people Oftentimes they will always come up with an excuse as to why they cannot video chat with you. If this occurs more than once, you can probably guarantee you`re being scammed.
7. If someone you just met is asking for gifts, items or money, this is a sign they are scamming you. Real people who want to get to know you will never ask for money or gifts, especially if they haven`t met you in person.
8. Never send money on anyone you`ve never met. This seems like common sense, but I am surprised at how many people have done this. I believe people become so wrapped up in "the relationship" they want to keep it going by doing what the scammer is asking for.
Facebook and Instagram are not doing much to police and eliminate their sites of these fake profiles. The best way to stop this problem is to spread awareness. If people quit falling for the scams and stop spending their hard-earned money on these scammers, this business would go away. Please help us continue to spread this message and help others from falling victim to these crimes
It all started when I returned home from Afghanistan in 2011. I started receiving messages from people that acted as if we knew each other. Some of these folks would ask why I no longer wanted to communicate and some accused me of taking their money and then disappear. What I quickly found out was that fake profiles were being created by others in order to try and dupe lonely women out of their money. Over the years it has gotten much worse. I have had women contact me that have lost their lives savings on someone who claimed to be me that needed money to be able to afford tickets from Afghanistan or Africa to return back to America and spend the rest of their life with the woman on the other end of the phone. Over the past 10 years now I have recieved calls from husbands threatening me with violence, women who thought they were talking to me that were expecting me to marry then and much more. Pictures of me holding my daughter only to find out the story they were using that my wife had died and I needed money for an operation for my child. I went to the FBI and also the local State Police and after investigating the issue, I was told that the majority of fake accounts were from Kenya, Nigeria and the Middle East. There was literally nothing that they could do so I find myself in the exact same boat as always. Still to this day, I will get on average at least 4 or 5 messages from others who know me to inform me that a new group of fake profiles are back in action. All I can do is tell people to please report the pages.
I'm USAF Staff Sergeant (E-5) Mark Wolford and scammers have been using my pictures to trick people. It sucks waking up every now and then to a message from someone who begs me to talk to them or is lashing out because they think they have been talking to me and are upset the scammer has deceived them and disappeared.
I even came across a couple accounts that were dedicated to hating "me". I was able to explain everything to those people and get them to remove it, thankfully.
I have had OSI from another Air Force base call my work to confirm who i am and warn me to see if my identity was stolen. All because a scammer cheated a woman out of thousands of dollars over a few months.
One lady messaged my dad and asked him if he knew what "I" was doing to her.
These scammers not only lie, cheat and steal from their victims but they drag my name through the dirt. Across all the various social media forms and dating apps, there are easily hundreds of places where I am known as a bad person, even though I didn't do anything.
My name is SSG AJ Powell (USA, Ret.)
For the last three straight years now as of 2020, I have been the repeated victim of sub-human, waste of life scammers stealing my photos and using them to start fake, impersonation accounts across social media and messaging apps in efforts to scam women around the world. I have lost count of how many women have messaged me out of the blue, almost always with the same stories... "Oh thank God I finally found the REAL you!" "I've been messaging this guy who's using your name [or] pictures for weeks/months now..." That's how it starts. Then they proceed to tell me the love-affair they fell into by a scammer full of lies while using my images to pretend to be me. Sometimes the story claims I have a sick child, sometimes I'm "deployed" to Syria or Afghanistan or Iraq or some other place and can't leave, sometimes they claim I need plane tickets home, sometimes they say I've been abandoned by the military, or that I'm a single parent in debt, and much more... Yet almost always does it end up in a need for money to be sent to the scammer. Many women over the years have told me how they lost money, some of them thousands of dollars and a few tens of thousands, before realizing they were being scammed. And some women actually fell in love before realizing the lies didn't add up, and when they found me, they redirected their feelings while superimposing the fake image of the fictional person they fell in love with toward me, leaving me now dealing with the problem created by the scammer.
Originally I felt a great deal of sympathy for those who were scammed, and a great deal of anger and malice toward those stealing my images. The stories the women would tell were emotional and many were really hurt both emotionally and financially. I tried to help them by pointing them toward law enforcement resources, victim advocacy groups, and simply just being there to listed so they could vent... But time and time again, week after week, month after month, of new messages from new people all telling me the same stories, looking to me to deal with the problem because it was my face and sometimes my name used, and eventually you begin to become less and less sympathetic. At the same time, a growing amount of my personal time was being spent in the seemingly never-ending efforts to hunt down, discover, and destroy new impersonation accounts. That sympathy toward the victims who reached out to me soon began turning to increasing levels of indifference, and my hatred and anger spread to include the very social media platforms who couldn't care less about this issue.
In the last three years, I've averaged finding at least one new fake account using my photos a week, sometimes more often. Sometimes someone would reach out to me and let me know of three, four, or five accounts they found with my images pretending to be me at the same time. Fake accounts impersonating me with my stolen pictures have been all over Instagram, Facebook, google hangouts, MeWe, Skype, WhatsApp, and even dating apps like Tinder too. And people from all over the globe have reached out to me reporting these scammer accounts, from Germany, Romania, Hungary, Brazil, Turkey, Malaysia, Indonesia, Japan, the UK, Columbia, Peru, Mexico, and yes... Even in the U.S. and Canada.
The problem has gotten so bad I have been forced to research new methods of theft prevention - like adding watermarks to all new photos of me before they are allowed to be posted, for example. I looked for alternative ways to protect myself from theft of my own images in the settings on social media platforms. I discovered that Facebook, for example, had a feature that allowed you to block entire countries if you had a business page. This feature in the general page settings goes a very long way toward preventing people from any nation you choose to block from ever seeing your page, let alone even knowing your page even exists. This one tool could have completely prevented my plight! 100% of all the images of me that have been stolen were all from my Instagram profile, and while there have been scammers discovered actually physically in the U.S. and Canada using my images, the primary habitual offenders are located in Africa, the Middle East, India, and SE Asia! Yet Instagram has no such feature... So I wrote Instagram a lengthy email, describing to them what I was dealing with and how this feature, if adopted from Facebook, could have prevented this, and would prevent future scammer thefts, not just from myself, but from others as well. You could block the nations where scammers are known to live, and prevent them from stealing your images before they even learn of your existence! Instagram, however, didn't see it that way, and their response was something simply along the lines of "we don't care, we won't be changing anything."
For the foreseeable future, I don't see an end to scammers recycling the photos they have stolen from me and continuing to use them, and further, it seems the majority of social media companies won't lift a finger to solve this problem either, Facebook, Instagram, Google, and Twitter included. Even if they did, I have a strong fear the methods they would use would cripple if not destroy any remnants of what little personal privacy the public has yet to give up to them. Despite the problems associated with assuring user accounts are authentic in a way that doesn't violate ethics, privacy, or personal rights, freedoms and liberties, the real challenge remains forcing the companies themselves to be held fully accountable for this issue on their platforms. They must be forced to hunt down and prevent known scammers from ever using their services again, removing scammer accounts, and educating the public worldwide who use their platforms about scammers, types of scams, and signs to look for to know if an account is questionable.
I strongly encourage all veterans to come together in support and advocacy over this issue, as it affects us all, including those who have become victims of being scammed by some of the most worthless filth on the planet. We need a strong voice if we're ever going to solve this problem in a way that is positive for us all yet that does not end with users being taken advantage of more by social media companies or government alike. We need a voice in government, in policy development, policy enforcement, and law enforcement, and not just in one nation, but in every nation that has veterans being used and victims being hurt. Surely there must be a responsible way forward that holds government and corporations accountable, brings scammers to justice, prevents new scams, and helps us - the users - through education and information, to interact in a better, more critical way.
AJ Powell SSG, USA, Ret.
Christian and World-Traveled American Combat Veteran,
Public Speaker and Published Researcher,
Veterans Advocate and Disabled Veteran Athlete,
Aviator and Professional Explorer,
Instructor and Leadership Development Mentor,
Professional Diver and NAUI SCUBA Instructor,
And Author of Tactical Pause: For Daily Growing Leaders.
i my name is Command Sergeant Major (CSM) Francisco Declet, Army active duty. I was given your contact information by Mr. David Leffler from Task and Purpose. I was reading his article about Military Romance Scams this past weekend and I have a similar and probably worst situation as COL Denny. About four years ago is when it really started for me when the command list was published. Hundreds of Facebook fake profiles started to pop out of nowhere for no apparent reason, later to find out why.
I was first contacted by a retire military member to give me the information of a friend, that I was, supposedly, in love with her. The story for her started when she send money to help my return from Afghanistan and she waited for me at Dallas. Little that she knew it was a scam. She actually find out the individuals, in Ghana, the story did not end there and it was the beginning of a long problem that has gone worst by the day. Now they have made hundreds of profiles, not only in Facebook, but other dating sites like Zook, POF and eHarmony. They started doing the free join sites, but I guess I'm profitable and now they move to the paying sites. The most recent case from last week is that they have used my information on an offshore account to request money (my name). These online sites are in no rush to help, nor to provide any assistance. It got out of control and is so much we can do. This is a small explanation of the problem.
If any help you can provide, or to guide me in the right direction, me and my family will be greatly appreciated. This type of scams degrade what we do for our country in one way or another, and affect our careers in the long run. My contact information is below.
Thanks for your time
To whom it may concern:
My name is Kliber Salinas, I`m a Sergeant First Class in the US Army; I`ve been in the service for 12 years. I`m originally from Florida but currently stationed in Illinois.
For the past several years the problem of scammers using my identity on social media has affected my life in numerous ways. Almost every single day I get contacted by people who have been scammed by people using my identity. The scammers don`t hesitate to use pictures of my family for their scams. The infuriating part is that each time I`m alerted to a new profile, myself and my friends report it and many times nothing is done�Facebook or Instagram notifies us that the profile doesn`t go against their standards. On top of that, my real Instagram profile is constantly being deleted and I`ve done absolutely nothing wrong.
I would love to wake up one of these days and find that Facebook, Instagram, and other social media have taken steps to stop this but for now, this is a huge problem in my life and it seems to get worse every single day. It`s abhorrent that these social media sites allow our military personnel and others to be abused in this matter, not to mention all the countless victims of these scams. I`m just one person speaking out, but I can tell you from experience that there are so many others in my exact same position. Thank you for your attention to this matter.
Kliber R. Salinas Respectfully, Kliber Salinas