Catfishing during coronavirus: How an old internet scam still tricks people

Catfishing during coronavirus: How an old internet scam still tricks people

Courtesy photo via The Virginian-Pilot. But Sency, a petty officer 1st class stationed in Virginia Beach, has never met or even communicated with any of these people before. The year-old is the victim of a long-running series of scams that steal photos of service members and use them to swindle money out of people online. It works like this: a scammer takes photos of someone like Sency, creates a fake social media account and develops a new online persona — sometimes using the real name of the person in the photo. Then the scammer will strike up online conversations with women around the world, many of them older or vulnerable, and pretend to be in a hard spot. Sometimes they solicit risque photographs and use them as blackmail. The U. In addition to being in the Navy, he co-hosts a popular military podcast called The Smoke Pit and maintains a sizable public presence for it online. Some of his social media accounts are public, allowing people access to plenty of photos of him. Many lead back to Nigeria.

Internet Scams Warning

An internet search for Mike Sency’s name immediately yields hundreds of accounts spread across social media and dating websites. Many of the profiles contain small differences, such as the photos used, the spelling of his name, even various details about his hobbies and interests. But they all share one common trait: They’re fake. Sency is used to it.

U.S. Army CID Warns Against Romance Scams (PDF /2 pages). If you believe that you have been the victim of Internet fraud, please follow the advice presented.

Are you dating or talking online to someone who says they are a military member? Have they asked you for funds or documents? Officials and websites like Military. Victims of these online military scams often think they are doing a good deed by helping a military member. Instead, they have given their money to a scammer, sometimes losing thousands of dollars, with very low possibility of recovery. The U. Unfortunately, the people committing these scams are often overseas — using untraceable email addresses, routing accounts through numerous locations around the world and utilizing pay-per-hour Internet cyber cafes.

See examples of fake documents used by scammers. There are a variety of words and phrases used by scammers to hook unsuspecting men and women into relationships. Here are some examples:. Scammers tend to use similar stories to convince men and women that they have a legitimate need. Here are common answers to those questions:.

Never send money.

Online Dating Scammers Pose as U.S. Military Personnel

Online scammers who use lonely hearts schemes to bilk people out of money sometimes steal the identity of a military member to tug at their victim’s heartstrings. Usually, these scammers develop fake contacts, using easily obtained pictures from real U. The scammers often use internet cafes and reroute money multiple times to untraceable sources, making it difficult to track them or reclaim any money they manage to steal.

What’s especially insidious about this kind of online scam is that many people legitimately want to help a member of the U. The scammers are exploiting people’s good intentions toward our men and women in uniform, and exploit their goodwill.

Online dating scam is ‘one of the largest of its kind’ (CNN) In March , a man claiming to be a US Army captain stationed in Syria reached.

Two Army reservists have been accused of coordinating a fraud scheme involving business email compromises and romance scams against elderly women, according to a federal complaint in the Southern District Court of New York. Joseph I. Asan Jr. Ogozy, both of whom enlisted in the Army Reserve in February , were arrested Oct. An FBI agent said in the complaint that Asan and Ogozy defrauded victims and laundered their proceeds through bank accounts they had opened in the names of fake businesses.

The publication Quartz noted that only Asan has been indicted and some of the court records indicate Ogozy might be cooperating with investigators. Few details of their military service were released in the document, and while the romance scams they were allegedly engaged in targeted elderly women , the schemes did not appear to invoke their military service to help their cause.

The two men would gain unauthorized access to business email accounts or spoof emails and impersonate employees of a company in order to convince victims to transfer funds to bank accounts they controlled, the FBI agent said in the complaint. An email was sent in February telling the chemical distributor that payment for the sale should be deposited in a bank account owned by Uxbridge Capital, LLC, at a credit union for active-duty, retired and reserve U.

Internet Fraud and the Armed Forces

Attorney Craig Carpenito. The following details from this case were taken from court documents and statements:. The most common story used by Sarpong and his conspirators was that they were military personnel stationed in Syria who were awarded gold bars. The conspirators told many of the victims their money would be reimbursed once the gold bars arrived in the United States.

Five Charged in Online Romance Scams Targeting Seniors the U.S. Army in Afghanistan, and whom she met online on Words with Friends.

Nowadays, you have to be cautious of everything you do online. Scammers are always trying to get money, goods or services out of unsuspecting people — and military members are often targets. Here are some scams that have recently been affecting service members, Defense Department employees and their families. In April, Army Criminal Investigation Command put out a warning about romance scams in which online predators go on dating sites claiming to be deployed active-duty soldiers.

It’s a problem that’s affecting all branches of service — not just the Army. Scam Alert Military experts are constantly warning service members about social media scams that can affect them and their families. CID said there have been hundreds of claims each month from people who said they’ve been scammed on legitimate dating apps and social media sites. According to the alleged victims, the scammers have asked for money for fake service-related needs such as transportation, communications fees, processing and medical fees — even marriage.

CID said many of the victims have lost tens of thousands of dollars and likely won’t get that money back. Scammers will sometimes provide false paperwork to make their case, but real service members make their own requests for time off.

When love becomes a nightmare: Online dating scams

The U. Armed Forces and they have been asked to send this service member money. In many cases, the money has already been sent and the inquirer is seeking to verify if this is standard practice in the U. Armed Forces.

Veterans Charities Scams: Fraudsters posing as U.S. Army CID Phishing Scams: Cyber criminals are Online Dating Scams: On online dating sites, there​.

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What You Need to Know About Romance Scams

District Court in Providence, R. It is alleged in Court documents that beginning in May , victims were contacted by scammers via online dating sites such as Plenty of Fish, Christian Mingle, and Our Time, and through social media platforms such as Words with Friends, often times feigning romantic intentions. The perpetrators of the scams gained the trust of their victims through any number of fraudulent representations, eventually convincing them to send money to bank accounts controlled by members of the conspiracy.

To date, 28 individuals in more than a dozen states have been identified as falling victim to the scams allegedly employed by the five individuals named in the charged conspiracy. United States Attorney Aaron L.

Victims of these “romance scams” report they became involved in an online relationship with someone they believed to be a U.S. Soldier who then began asking.

These are external links and will open in a new window. Jean – not her real name – was soon contacted by a man named “Alex”, who claimed to be a soldier in the US Army. He said his wife had left him, that he was raising his teenage son alone, and that he was soon leaving for a tour of Afghanistan. He said he was going to come and see me. He said all the right things. Weeks into their blossoming friendship, Alex claimed his son had changed the PIN for his cash card and he was in financial dire straits.

Jean offered to help and sent Alex some money. But it wasn’t a one-off favour. Speaking to the 5 live Investigates programme, Jean recalled how Alex’s requests for money began to snowball: “It went on and on. I kept helping him and his son with various things – domestic bills, school fees and things like that. Jean is not alone and is one of a rising number of women to fall victim to this particular form of online dating fraud, where the scammer poses as a US soldier – they often say they’re stationed at a US base in the UK, to inspire hope that a relationship is possible.

The yarn spun by “Alex” – deserted by his wife; single father – is a common one. A desperate request for money is inevitable.

Beer-lovers shop

Since the large adoption of the internet, the online dating industry moved to set a new standard in the way we find our soulmates. And it worked. According to a study from the University of Chicago, compared to marriages between couples who meet in real life, marriages between couples whose relationships are formed through an online dating site are more likely to last.

Unfortunately, with the rise of online dating services came the birth of romance scams. Romance scams target wealthy women, sometimes widows, who are looking for a new relationship and men who are looking for extra-marital relationships.

These scams are attempts by con artists to convince you to send them money by Viber, Kik, dating apps, etc) from a person claiming be a U.S. citizen stationed The U.S. military has systems in place for service members to travel on leave.

Please enable JavaScript in your web browser; otherwise some parts of this site might not work properly. Sadly, millions of Americans are targeted by scammers every year. The most common, imposter scams, involve individuals pretending to be someone of trust to get money or personal information from a victim. This includes personal information like your Social Security number or access to your finances. The top frauds reported last year were from people pretending to be from the government, a well-known business, or a romantic interest in need of help.

A large portion of imposter scams are those pretending to be from the U. A few of the more common ones are:. IRS Scams : These scammers send a notice through email, mail, or phone calls in an attempt to gain access to your tax or banking information to steal your identity and money. Social Security Scams : Individuals pose as benefits investigators claiming a problem with your Social Security account. If you or a loved one has received one of these threatening calls, you can report them directly to the Social Security Administration.

Telephone Scams : Scammers try to steal money and personal information through phone calls, text messages or robocalls.

Photos of US Soldiers Used In Romance Scams


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