Thieves are taking “catfishing” to a new low by stealing military ID’s to commit online romance scams.
‘Dean McGuire’ is 42 and lives in Miami Beach. On a social media site, he says he could be spontaneous, adventurous and is a hopeless romantic.
But here’s the thing: The guy in the picture is actually Jordan Thompson who is 26 and lives in Birmingham.
“It was awkward and creepy. I don’t have enough time to have my own life. I don’t understand how someone has more than one. It doesn’t make sense. It’s kind of unnerving more than anything. I feel helpless, I can’t do anything about it and I feel bad for the women that this person is scamming,” Thompson said.
Thompson is in the Alabama National Guard. He’s one of many military members and veterans across the country being targeted by scammers. It’s a part of an online romance scam. It has the attention of Army investigators.
The Army says the “soldier” steals pictures of actual soldiers from social media then creates fake profiles and begins asking for money for various, fake service-related needs. Thompson found a handful of fake profiles using his pictures.
“It wasn’t just a Facebook profile. They had a match.com, they had an OK Cupid. They had a couple of websites that I had never heard of before. And I was able to contact those websites and submit a takedown request,” Thompson said.
Thompson says the story the scammers are giving to unsuspecting victims is pretty much the same across social media.
“I’ve been told the guy says he’s deployed in Syria or another place and saying he send my mother some cash or phone so she can send it to me and in that regard they are kind of having stolen valor right there. They are pretending to be a military person and they are utilizing that military for gain,” Thompson said.
Army veteran Michael Thorin is also being targeted. He found his picture on a handful of fake profiles on Facebook.
“The very first thing is you feel aggravating cause I think like most other military personnel, I value my reputation. You know one of the last things you can hold onto in your life in your name,” Thorin said.
Both Thorin and Thompson had people contact them on social media letting them know about the fake profiles. On a weekly basis or more both men are searching social media to see if any profiles pop up. If so, they ask the sites to take them down and that’s really the only thing being done right now.
“The worst part is the frustration knowing that the only thing you can do is report it,” Thorin said.
Thorin would like to see the government take a more proactive action to try and track down these scammers.
“Because you’ve got some of these people that are using it multiple times and when you shut them down once, they’ll just pop open back in two or three weeks. I’d like to see more of a task force, maybe held up by the FBI because local police can’t do anything. It’s out of their judication,” Thorin added.
Thompson says if possible, keep your profile information private so no one can pry into your business.
The Army says that several senior officers have also had their identities stolen just to be used in these scams. We’re told the government has set up numerous task force organizations to deal with this growing epidemic.
If you think you’ve been scammed, contact the Federal Trade Commission immediately.