The major match-making sites like Match.com and eHarmony offer valuable services, and are effective at bringing people together. Social networking sites like Facebook also are connecting people via the internet and friendship and even love is often found online. Not to mention the countless other online dating and social networking sites. But, this new online meeting platform of the internet has risks, and the risks are growing. Romance scams are actually growing as criminals find new and creative ways to fool their victims. Among the fastest growing among them, are scams involving members of the military.
International private investigators and law enforcement agencies have seen plenty of stories of divorced or single people searching for Mr. or Ms. Perfect online, and then to be scammed for thousands of dollars, ending in emotional and financial ruin. Criminals and reported cases of persons claiming to be servicemean or women in the U.S. or U.K. military is increasingly common. Scammers claim to be in the U.S. or British Army stationed in Iraq or Afganistan fighting for their country. They gain their victims trust by telling them about his or her family, talking about the hardships of being away from home, being in battle, and more. Eventually, a romance is formed and the criminal has gained your trust. Soon, the “soldier” will send you photos of him serving in the military and will talk to you about coming home soon. Within this tangled web of lies will be some requests for your personal information to steal your identity, or he or she will attempt to get you to send money or valuables for a hardship or complication while serving abroad.
Photographs used are often taken randomly from the internet, where there are over 1 billion available for scammers choosing! Dating sites and social networking sites are easy places for criminals to get all the photos he or she needs. Criminals may also search public records to assume a real identity of someone in the U.S. or the U.K., and so the scammer has a real photo, a real name and address, and a very convincing story. Yet, buried in the details is the truth. Because of the increasing skill level and complicated scam techniques being used by criminals, consumers often contract a professional investigation firm to conduct an international background check to verify if the person is who they claim to be. A reputable investigation company can verify the subject’s identity, and confirm if he is indeed serving in the military.
Who’s behind this growing type of fraud and scams? Law enforcement officials like the Metropolitan Police Service in London and Interpol say that criminals are often based or have connections to organized criminal operations in West Africa in Nigeria or Ghana, but also in Spain, the U.K., Russia and the Ukraine and Spain. China is also seeing a sharp rise in criminals taking advantage of the internet for easy money. In short, no country is immune, and criminals often operate behind proxy servers or internet cafes to hide their true identity. The FBI receives thousands of complaints a year from people who have been scammed by unscrupulous people they have met online. The message is clear. There is a real risk in internet scams, and online dating and social network subscribers should be skeptical. When in doubt, contact a professional international investigation firm to verify with a background check or verification service.
Best of luck,
© 2011 A Hathaway