A soldier’s battle against online military romance scams | #lovescams | #military | #datingscams

Romance scams can leave you both broke and heartbroken. Military romance scams take advantage of both those looking for love and our service members.

SAN ANTONIO — One soldier is fighting a battle of a different sort. Army Col. Daniel Blackmon says fraudsters are using his name and pictures in romance scams.

“I got a message from, it was a niece of a woman who was being catfished and it was one of those hey we’ve tried to tell her that this is going on and it’s not true,” he said. “I went to her Facebook page and I popped up on her Facebook page. Her profile was a picture of her split in half and then a picture of me holding my young son with a heart around us.”

He said he then reached out to the woman to let her know someone was using his picture and name to take money.

“It took a pretty significant amount of convincing for her before she finally realized that she was being scammed,” Col. Blackmon said. “At that point, she had given away quite a few hundred dollars.”

“People will use military images, military photos because the image of somebody serving immediately commands respect, as it should,” said Stacey Nash, a bank fraud expert with USAA.

A Federal Trade Commission report showed claiming to be far away on a military base or deployed is the most popular excuse scammers use for why they cannot meet you.

“We’re deployed in some cool places, but we’re not always constantly, perpetually deployed,” Col. Blackmon said.

Another red flag can be speech and grammar.

“They will use words that aren’t part of our normal vernacular,” Col. Blackmon said. “They’ll use the excuse of, well, I’ve been deployed for so long. The longest I’ve ever been deployed was 12 or 13 months. In that whole time, I was surrounded by other Americans. I never picked up an accent.”

“The person on the other end of that computer is not who you think they are many times,” Nash said. “When you meet somebody, anybody, whether it’s through text, whether it’s through computers, whether it’s through dating sites, whether it’s through any kind of online activity, you should immediately be suspicious until you’re able to actually confirm and meet face to face.”

Also, the military does not limit service members’ access to money, ever, so they should not need your money.

“I pretty much can get a hold of any money that I need to. The army doesn’t restrict my ability to get my paycheck or my retirement,” Col. Blackmon said. “We have access to money. So that’s not really the problem. By the way, we have plenty of food and we generally have all the resources we need, even if we’re deployed. We wouldn’t be asking for money in that way.”

He said military members need to be extra careful with their social media privacy settings so their identities are not stolen to use in scams.

“That was my mistake,” Col. Blackmon said. “I left my stuff pretty wide open at the time. Since then, I kind of shut it down.”

Shutting down the scammers has not been as easy. He reports fake profiles when he finds them but said he has only been “mildly successful” at getting them taken down.

“I believe that the tech companies that own these platforms have a responsibility to keep their users safe and they aren’t,” Col. Blackmon said. “The reason I decided to make this more of an issue is because from my perspective, they need to have better mechanisms for being able to find people who are reaching out and taking pictures.”

Nash said to double-check with someone you trust before you ever send money to someone else.

“Does this sound legit to you?” Nash said. “What do you think about this? Because one of the biggest things that fraudsters actually leverage is secrecy. They’ll tell you not to tell anyone. They’ll tell you not to share this with anybody and immediately that should be a red flag.”

He recommends doing a reverse image search if a military member approaches you online because he said most military members do not go looking for love online.

“The Army’s pretty good about teaching us cybersecurity,” Col. Blackmon said. “We’re probably not going to be reaching out to strangers and asking them, ‘hey, do you like long walks on the beach? That’s just not how we do business.”

This Valentine’s Day he said he has only one woman in his life.

“I’m a very happily married man,” Col. Blackmon said. “I have been married to the same woman for 23 plus years now. We’ve got two kids and she’s very much alive, which is also one of the common scams, that I’m a widow or recently divorced.”

He said he has tried multiple times to get rid of his duplicates online, but they are still out there breaking hearts and wallets.  


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