Military dating scams are a type of online fraud that capitalizes on the good name and perceived credibility of military personnel. Scammers create fake profiles on dating websites or social media platforms, often posing as military members stationed overseas.
They build relationships with unsuspecting victims, generally leading them on with loving messages, promises of a future together, and sometimes sharing seemingly confidential military information to foster trust. At some point, they will create a false emergency or reason that requires financial assistance and ask their newfound “love interest” to send them money.
How Can I Tell If Someone Is Trying a Military Romance Scam on Me?
Military romance scams can be hard to detect, especially for individuals unfamiliar with military protocol or who are looking for companionship. Here are some red flags.
The scammer may move the relationship along very quickly, expressing strong feelings or even discussing marriage within a few weeks of ‘meeting’ online.
Sandra, a single woman looking for companionship, meets ‘John’ online. He claims to be a soldier deployed overseas. Within two weeks of their initial conversation, ‘John’ starts expressing strong romantic feelings for Sandra and mentions the possibility of a life together once he returns. He sends loving messages and calls her terms of endearment, indicating a deep relationship that doesn’t align with their brief interaction timeline.
Unexpected Requests for Personal Information
Scammers may ask for personal information such as your full name, address, phone number, or even bank account details under the guise of needing it for official purposes or to arrange for their return.
One day, ‘John’ asks Sandra for her full name, address, and phone number, claiming he needs it to fill out paperwork for his upcoming leave. He assures her that it’s necessary for official purposes and for their future plans together. This raises suspicion as the military typically has its own procedures for handling such matters and wouldn’t rely on an individual to provide personal information directly.
Request for Money
This is the biggest red flag. They may come up with stories of urgent emergencies, like a need for special medical care, money for flights home, communication fees, or even leave processing.
After gaining Sandra’s trust, ‘John’ begins to share stories of hardship. He explains that he has an urgent medical need that the military can’t cover and needs money for treatment. He insists he will pay her back as soon as he can access his bank account but cannot do so because of his deployment location.
Unavailable to Meet in Person
They may always have a reason for being unable to meet in person, usually related to being stationed overseas.
Excited about their burgeoning relationship, Sandra suggests she could visit him or arrange a meeting when he’s back in the states for a brief leave. However, ‘John’ always has an excuse. He says he’s in a high-security location, his leave has been postponed, or he can’t leave the base. Despite months of intense communication, they never manage to meet in person.
Lack of Specifics
They might be vague about their personal life and military service or make mistakes about military jargon, protocols, or base locations.
As Sandra becomes more invested in ‘John’ and their future, she tries to learn more about him. But he remains vague about his personal life and military service. He dodges questions about his family, hometown, or experiences in the military. When he does share, his stories are inconsistent, and he often makes mistakes about military protocol or uses jargon incorrectly. He claims he’s based at a location that, upon further research, Sandra finds doesn’t host any U.S. military personnel.
Are There Any Legal Consequences or Punishments for Military Romance Scams?
Yes, military romance scams are illegal. They fall under the category of wire fraud, internet fraud, and identity theft. Individuals found guilty of these crimes can face severe penalties, including fines, restitution, and imprisonment.
What Should I Do If I’m a Victim of a Military Romance Scam?
If you believe you’ve been targeted by a military romance scam, it’s crucial to stop all communication with the scammer and hire a military lawyer. You can report the fraud to the Federal Trade Commission, the Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3), and the website or social media platform where you met the scammer. Also, contact your bank immediately if you’ve sent money, as they may be able to help.
Step 1: Cease Communication
The first step is to immediately stop communicating with the suspected scammer. Do not respond to any more of their messages or calls. If the contact was through a particular website or social media platform, consider blocking the person to prevent further contact.
Step 2: Report to Federal Trade Commission (FTC)
Visit the FTC’s online Complaint Assistant and follow the prompts to report the scam. You will be asked for details about the scam, such as how you were contacted, what the scammer told you, and what, if any, money you lost. The more details you can provide, the more it can help in an investigation.
Step 3: Report to Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3)
Go to www.ic3.gov and click on “File a Complaint.” Similar to the FTC complaint, you will be asked to provide information about the scam. The IC3 is a partnership between the FBI and the National White Collar Crime Center, and they handle internet-related criminal complaints.
Step 4: Report to the Social Media or Dating Site
If the scam occurred on a dating website or social media platform, report it to them too. Most sites have a method for reporting abuse or suspicious behavior. Look for a “Report Abuse” or “Report User” link, often found in the user’s profile or in the help section of the website.
Step 5: Contact Your Bank
If you have sent money to the scammer, contact your bank or credit card company as soon as possible. They might be able to stop a transaction, return funds, or close your account if the scammer has your details. Be sure to report the incident as fraud and provide as much information as you can about the transaction.
In each case, make sure to provide as much information as possible, including the scammer’s profile name, any contact information you have for them, copies of the messages they sent, and details of the money they requested or that you sent. While it might feel uncomfortable to share these details, doing so is an essential part of stopping these scams and holding the scammers accountable.
Do I Need a Lawyer for Assistance with a Military Romance Scam Claim?
While reporting the scam to the relevant authorities is an essential first step, consulting with a fraud lawyer can also be beneficial, especially if you’ve suffered significant financial loss. An attorney with experience in fraud cases can help navigate the complex legal process, advise you on potential avenues for recovering lost funds, and represent you if necessary.
If you’ve fallen victim to a military romance scam, you may need a lawyer who handles fraud cases. LegalMatch can help connect you with the right professional. By using their free service, you can present your case, and they’ll match you with experienced fraud lawyers in your area. Get the legal support you need to fight back against these devastating scams.