Updated on May 21, 2012
I am inundated daily with emails and comments from people around the world thinking they are being scammed online by people professing to be Soldiers or Marines in a combat zone. I want to reiterate a few points about how to easily determine if the person you are speaking with is a real service member or not.
1) They ask for money, especially through a money service like MoneyGram or Western Union. These are easy, immediate tip-offs.
2) They send you pictures that don’t match the rank and service they tell you they are. I can’t tell you how many times I get emails and comments asking me to look into someone saying they are a Staff Sergeant and wearing Major rank or a supposed Colonel wearing Sergeant Major rank. Educate yourself on military ranks and uniforms and do due diligence before wasting my time with these obvious indicators. You can find US Military ranks here.
3) They tell you that they are assigned to a secret intelligence unit. People really assigned to secret intelligence units won’t say they are assigned to secret intelligence units.
4) Ask them to send you an email from their military email as confirmation. If they send you one, respond to it and ensure they didn’t make it up. You’ll find that most – if not, all – of these emails will come back undeliverable. If they say they can’t give it to you for security reasons, it’s a scam.
5) They need your help with “special leave.” This leave will usually need to be signed by a general officer and will come with additional fees. Military personnel do not need a civilian’s help with processing leave. I’m married and I don’t even need my wife’s help if I want to take leave. It doesn’t cost military personnel a single penny to take leave – EVER!
6) Check the photos. Often time, these scammers are such complete morons, they’ll send multiple pictures of different people and claim to be the same person. If it doesn’t look right, it isn’t.
7) Uses a sob story about being a widower (usually say widow). Most of the photos these guys steal are from married troops and will contain photos with kids or a woman. To explain these images away, they “kill off” the spouse somehow and pull on the heartstrings with sob stories of having to raise children alone. Most obituaries are published online and a simple Google of obituaries will prove this scam. Hearing all these stories, one would think that the most dangerous place in the world isn’t Afghanistan, but it sounds like the truth is America’s roads.
With that said, in addition to the other names I’ve already given on other websites, I want to add a few here that have recently come to my attention. Please keep in mind that the real Soldiers – if, in fact, these names were real – are not the scammers, but criminals using their names and images.
Sgt Shannon Bruce – Claims to be in Kabul. The scammer claims to be 50 and divorced with a daughter. Lives in Colorado Springs. He is, of course, due to retire soon & wants to be with whomever he is speaking to. He’s asked for money for a phone connection & also to come here on “special” leave to see his “lover.”
Cpt Kelvin Mike – Claims to be in Iraq. Obviously not his real name as one of the pics has “Field” on his name badge! He sends photos of different people claiming to be the same person! Claims to live in Neptune City, NJ. Claims to be a widow who’s wife died in a car crash & has a son “Tony” who’s at school in Nigeria. Asked for £300 so he could make Tony’s birthday “very special” as it is the 1st he’s celebrating in Africa. This guy also uses a fake email claiming to be the son, Tony, and will call you “Mum.”
Sigmund Witt – Claims to be in Afghanistan. Is of Austrian parentage, lives in New York, has a 21 year old daughter. Claims his wife died in a car crash taking his dad to hospital.
Staff Sgt Ryan England Wool – Goes by Ryan but has used Russell, Kenneth & George apparently. He also uses a different last name than his photos. He also wears a uniform that the Army hasn’t worn in nearly seven years. Claims to be in Baghdad. Lives in Cinebar, Washington. Wife died in a car crash, has a 17 year old son “Jude”. Asks for £200 for stuff for his son as he was going on holiday to “Ryan’s” brothers in South Africa. He would of course pay the money back when he retires in a few months and is re-locating wherever you may be soon!
Cpt Patrick Burke Smith – Claims to be in Kabul. The photos are actually Aaron Ramos & he’s aware that his pics are being used, they’re all over the net as an internet scammer. Claims to be divorced, no kids. Lives in Colorado Springs. Asked for money for “special leave” so he can spend Christmas with his victim. Claims he has 5 years left to serve before retiring. When asked for current pictures, he claims his computer is broken (while being able to access the internet with it), obviously because the pics in uniform had Ramos across the chest and he was claiming to be Smith!
Col. Robert Wood This is one of the guys I was talking about where you need to verify rank. D.O.B. 10th November 1949 from Gladstone, Michigan. Says he is due to retire in the New Year. Claims to be widowed with a 17 year old son. Asks for money to pay for appendectomy and drugs, after operation in Ghana. His supposed Diplomatic Friend is a Mohammed Hassan.