Thursday, November 10, 2011
Don't Let This Happen to You!
Esther Ortiz-Rodeghero, a grieving widow, was advised by her therapist to go online to find friends to help deal with her overwhelming lost over the unexpected death of her husband. She signed up for SeniorPeopleMeet and met a poetic Army General Wayne Jackson. Wayne had posted a photo of an attractive man in army fatigues. Esther hooked by the promise of a new love was sending emails like crazy, which followed by her sending money. Strangely, a general pulls down major money, but somehow Wayne needed her help. He even sent her pictures of his bank statements, which were very healthy, but he couldn’t access them from abroad. The bank statements are very easy to change, rather like photo shopping.
The story ends with our grieving widow wiring all she had to the General. She ended up losing all her savings, her retirement, even her home. If that wasn’t enough she even lost her job. How could one woman be so foolish? Easy, most of us have been this foolish to a lesser degree. She was a woman in a deep grief cycle who needed comfort and motivation to go on. I hooked up with a pretty bad dude after my divorce, but at least he didn’t hit me up for money.
How could have Esther saved herself? Well, if she knew something about the military she would have seen through his scam. Many Nigerians and some Russians are bilking English-speaking men and women out of millions by joining websites such as Match, 101date.com, MyYearbook.com, OKCupid, Friends Reunited Dating, SeniorPeopleMeet, and and many more.Sites like eHarmony that verify identity and drop members who have been reported by other members are not easy pickings for the con artist. The scammers post actual pictures of US Service men that they got from trolling the Internet.
I googled my own son, who is married, and found him in uniform. He’s a tall, good looking, broad shouldered blond in fatigues. His photo could easily be used too. Sometimes the scammers include several photos and they are not the same person! Probably thinking all soldiers look alike. Are you being scammed right now?
The military hates this scam and is doing its best to stop it. Here are a few sites that post photos the scammers use. Remember these are photos of real people, not the scammer. These real people are probably great guys and are most likely married or have a girlfriend. Check it out at: http://militarygear.com/asp/2010/07/28/the-wall-of-shame/ and http://militarygear.com/asp/2010/12/20/new-online-military-scammers/. The photos are used over and over to lure various women in at the same time. How do you know you’re being scammed?
First of all, the ranks are all wrong. They might show you a photo of a man with master sergeant stripes and call him a Colonel Major. You can check out ranks on the above site. Esther fell for a man who was way too young to be a general. She wouldn’t know this unless she was familiar with the Army.
The military has several ways you can communicate with your sweetie including APO and FPO addresses. All servicemen have a military email that ends in .mil. Any other email is merely a smokescreen. The scammers like the online dating sites because they provide an email for them.
The con men often know little about the United States and will pick out a military base and then pick a home hundreds of miles away. United States is huge and most non-Americans don’t have a feel for that. If you are wondering about the distance, go on mapquest.com and find out how far it really is. With the price of gas, most soldiers would not drive more than thirty miles to work.
Another tip-off is the immediate deployment, out of the blue. You were communicating for a few weeks and suddenly he has to go to Iraq. My son knew a year before he went to Iraq. Two years before Afghanistan, it is very seldom sudden.
They must get the woman interested by usually being a widower with a small child or teenager depending on the age of the woman they are corresponding with. These guys are good and know what heartstrings to pull with women.
Another tip-off is their English is oddly formal. I get scams from Nigeria all the time and they start out with My Dearest, My Beloved, My Precious One. Have you received any of these? We’re Americans. We do not speak like this, especially American military men.
The final show of hand is when they ask for money. The military man is taken care of when abroad, all his medical needs, transportation, food and housing is covered by the government. No need for them to be flown home on their own dime. A civilian cannot open accounts for them or set up retirement accounts for them. One popular scam has the girlfriend sending money to start a retirement account for him. She knows it is only a matter of weeks before he gets back to the US to spend his retirement with his newly found love. If he is in the Army he started that account when he joined. All requests for money are wire transfers that can be picked up via the Internet or your local Western Union. Never wire money. If he asks for money then he is not the real deal.
Does he call you at home? My son while stationed in Iraq had no trouble calling home although he didn’t always call at convenient times. Most avoid calling because their accent might alert you something is wrong. Some men in the US might be working a scam and feel confident that their accent would pass. Remember here in the US we have plenty of regional accents—you do have to know them. A man claiming to be from Boston should not sound like someone from East Texas.
The Army is doing its part to try to stop the scammers from using the face of the American fighting man. The rest is up to you. If your uniformed sweetheart suddenly disappears when you won’t send him money, then he never was your sweetheart. It is a good thing he vanished.