Don't fall for these online romance scams
With the holidays over and Valentine’s Day fast approaching, it is anticipated that extortionists look to prey on the lonely and vulnerable to obtain fast money through dating scams. These criminals troll social media sites and chat rooms in search of lonely victims and use legitimate dating websites to defraud people out of thousands of dollars, jewelry, electronics, and even plane tickets.
CYBER EXTORTION IMPACT ON SERVICE MEMBERS IN OKINAWA
Over the past two years, cyber extortion has been a problem affecting service members on Okinawa. Every year the number of reports to law enforcement continues to increase, along with the amount of money that service members are losing. Facebook and Skype were primarily used to meet victims, and following the trend, sexual images that were shared were used for extortion. A new trend emerged with extortionists claiming to be law enforcement officials and threatening criminal punishment for non-payment.
LOOK FOR RED FLAGS
Wondering if the person you are talking to is too good to be true? Do an image search of the person’s photo and if the photo appears under several names, you’re probably dealing with a scammer. Also go to Romancescams.org to search their database for the person you are talking to.
The vast majority of victim’s are Lance Corporals and Corporals, indicating single junior Marines are viewed as easy targets. Service members are advised to remain vigilant when on social media and are urged to decline invitations from strangers to connect in any online forum, whether through video chat, seemingly harmless messaging, or picture trading. Be sure to look for red flags during online encounters:
• If an online love interest immediately requests to start chatting off of the dating site, using personal email, text or phone, cease communication immediately.
• Dating websites are designed with the intent to meet strangers. However, many online extortionists are operating out of foreign countries and stick to a script to hide their poor English. Look for awkward phrasing, inaccurate grammar, and an intensity that does not seem appropriate for a new encounter. Do not let profile pictures fool you. Extortionists often use real photographs stolen from other users.
• Do not, under any circumstances, exchange, send, or willingly accept nude photographs from a stranger. Never offer to pay a stranger for a nude photograph even if they proposition a deal. This NEVER results in a meaningless transaction and often leads to blackmail, particularly for military members.
*Don’t send money to someone you met online. If your online love interest asks for money, it’s probably a scam*
If you have been a victim of a romance scam and/or your photos have been stolen, immediately report to your chain of command and contact Military Police at 645-7441/7442.