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Scammers Are Using Stolen Photos Of Service Members To Catfish People On Social Media

Soldier walking in remote desert
Raphye Alexius

The military and social media websites like Facebook still have not gotten a handle on dating scammers using photos of military servicemen to catfish unsuspecting women.

 

Last year, various media outlets reported on stories from servicemen who all told a similar story: Out of nowhere, they would receive a message from a woman they didn’t know saying they missed them or expressing anger over not hearing from them.

The New York Post reported the story of U.S. Army veteran Albert Lovato, who began receiving messages from women who claimed to love him, scold him for leaving her, or even asking about the money she sent them. Lovato told the Post that he knew of about 30 women who had been conned by someone posing as him.

Task & Purpose around the same time reported a similar story for Bryan Denny. Denny also received a message from a woman he didn’t know who had been in an online relationship with an imposter. The Denny this woman knew had lost his wife and had an ill son. She helped him out with medical costs and home repairs. She had sent the imposter thousands of dollars.

Denny found nearly 100 imposter accounts on Facebook using his photo.

The U.S. Army Criminal Investigation Command has a website where people can report similar scammers, “warning anyone who is involved in online dating to proceed with caution when corresponding with persons claiming to be U.S. Soldiers currently serving in Iraq, Afghanistan, Syria or elsewhere.”

 

CID said it “receives hundreds of allegations a month from victims who state they got involved in an online relationship with someone, on a legitimate dating website or other social media website, who claims to be a U.S. Soldier.”

The website also states that “numerous task force organizations” have been established to handle the problem, but it appears to still be an issue.

On Friday, The New York Times published the account of Daniel Anonsen, a Marine Corps veteran who, like Lovato and Denny, had his pictures stolen to scam women. Anonsen told the outlet that Facebook refused to remove most of the imposter accounts, claiming they didn’t violate the network’s rules. Anonsen tried going to his platoon commanders and intelligence officers while he was still enlisted, but they couldn’t help either.

 

“I let them work their military-intelligence magic, and I went back to them, and they’re like: ‘We can’t do anything about it, man. It’s out of our hands,’” he told the Times. “I thought military intelligence would be able to type a couple of zeros and ones and it would all go away, but it’s not that simple.”

The Times reported that Anonsen’s imposters are still on Facebook and Instagram. The experience has made him nervous that he may be confronted in public by one of the scammer’s victims.

“The worst thing to ever think of is sitting down at dinner with my wife and someone just approaching me and just going after me,” he told the Times. “I think about it regularly when I’m out.”

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