It all starts innocently enough. A man reaches out online through private messaging or the dating app you’re on. He seems to say and do all the right things. Everything seems perfect. And you fall for him. Hard.
It happens all the time. There’s rarely a day that goes by when someone isn’t reaching out to me about the amazing person they met online.
In the cases I deal with, the man is impersonating a soldier in the U.S. military. Seeing a handsome soldier reaching out to establish a connection seems to make people trust the situation quickly. After all, who is more honorable than someone who has chosen to serve his country?
Soon enough, he’s requesting monetary funds in one way or another. Sometimes it will start very innocently, such as asking for an iTunes card. Other times, they go straight for the ultimate prize and ask for thousands of dollars to return home from a deployment.
The truth is that in almost all of the cases I’ve worked with, the women had alarm bells going off. Something didn’t seem quite right.
Some stopped the conversation with the “soldier” and reached out to me. And it was case closed very quickly.
Sadly, in many women who asked for help, they have sent thousands of dollars to this man and, in a few cases, tens of thousands of dollars.
Women have told me they have been left with nothing as they turned their life savings over to this man who was making grand promises of a fairytale life together if she could help him get back home.
If you’re in that situation or know someone else who is, read on for the action steps to take now.
One quick note before we dive in, it’s not just women who are victims of the scams. There are female scammers and male victims, as well as same-sex scams. There is no discrimination when it comes to scams parting you with your hard-earned money.
Realize You Aren’t Alone
When people reach out to me, they’re not only heartbroken but also incredibly disappointed in themselves that they fell victim to a scammer.
I have worked with thousands of people since I wrote my first article on scammers impersonating soldiers, and I would venture to guess that’s a small percentage of the ones who are out there.
Many scammers are working on multiple victims at the same time. Not everyone will send money, so they increase their odds by carrying on multiple “relationships” at once.
There’s no easy way to deal with the emotional side of things. But take at least some solace in knowing that others have fallen prey to the same tactics.
Block Him and Report His Profile
This one is usually the toughest for those that I work with. You must block him where you’re communicating with him. And even though he may turn around and just set up a new profile, you should still report that profile, whether it’s to Facebook or a dating site.
Many women balk at the thought of this. They either want to figure out a way to bust him or think if he knows she figured it out, he can come clean and move on with an honest relationship.
I can’t tell you the number of times women have said they confronted him; he admitted it was a scam but then said that she’s different – he was truly in love with her. He’s a changed man because of her.
These are probably some of the most heartbreaking situations as no matter what I say to them or how much proof there is, they go back to the scammer. This only results in having more money taken from them in the future by this man who has supposedly changed his ways.
The way to sanity and to truly move on from this situation is to block him. Cut off any form of communication you have with him.
He is a scammer, pure and simple. And he will not change. He knows exactly what to say to suck you back in, but you now know it’s a facade. Block him.
Realize the Threats Are Empty
In some cases, when the woman confronts the scammer about the scam and realizes he isn’t going to get any money, he gets angry and starts hurling threats.
This could include threats he will come after you physically, he will hurt your family, or he will expose information you provided him over the time you’ve been communicating. This could include pictures or even sensitive financial information.
These scammers are generally in another country. In most cases, they’re on another continent. They’re not coming here to hunt you down over not sending them an iTunes card or giving them a $1,000. It would cost them more than that to get here.
They can expose your information, but in every case that I’ve worked with so far, that hasn’t happened.
With all that said, if you truly believe your safety is at risk, contact your local authorities for assistance.
Protect Yourself From Further Financial Damage
Have you provided him with bank account information or credit card numbers? Have you given him your social security number or other highly sensitive personal data?
Many, many people have done this. They have provided access to their bank account or, in some cases, even added him to their bank account.
If you have provided any financial or sensitive data, you need to act fast. Once they realize you aren’t going to give them money willingly, they may use the information they have to get it.
Credit Cards – If you have provided credit card data, call the credit card company and let them know an unauthorized person now has access to your credit card information. Ask for the card to be closed and have another card issue.
Pay close attention to your credit card statements and any charges that may appear. You can dispute any unauthorized charges with the credit card company.
Bank Accounts – If you have added someone to your account or otherwise provided access to your bank account, contact the bank immediately to have the account closed.
Again, watch your account closely to be sure unauthorized transfers and withdrawals aren’t happening. Be sure to be forthright with the bank as to what happened so they can flag your account.
Social Security Number & Other Sensitive Data – If you have provided this information that could allow someone to steal your identity and begin getting credit in your name, you need to contact the credit bureaus.
There are three major credit reporting agencies – Equifax, TransUnion, and Experian. You can contact each one and have a fraud alert placed on your credit report. If you cannot prove you have been a victim of identity theft (yet), there is a small fee to place the alert.
This essentially locks your credit report and places a fraud alert message on the credit report to alert creditors that additional steps to verify the transaction need to occur.
Creditors will not conduct a full credit check without a PIN that a particular agency has provided you.
It’s a pain when you are legitimately trying to open a new credit source (like buying a car), but believe me, trying to unravel everything after identity theft is way worse.
File a Report with Authorities
It is doubtful you will ever recover the money that you have sent to the scammer. You can alert the FBI and their internet crimes division about the situation that has occurred. But don’t expect that it will result in getting your hard-earned money back.
In all the time that I’ve been working with people involved with these scams, no one has ever recovered their money. But some do get satisfaction in knowing they have at least reported the crime to the appropriate authorities.
Educate Yourself on the Signs of a Scam
By this point, you have firsthand knowledge of how the scam happens, but these scammers change their tactics all the time. Quite a few people who ask for help reach out multiple times over a few months to ask about different people.
When they say and do all of the right things, promise you this amazing life together as soon as he returns, and sends attractive pictures, it can be tough to think with your head and not your heart.
Throughout the site, I’ve written about signs of a scam and different scam types run over the years. Take the time to read the articles as well as share them with others.
The only way we will be able to stop these monsters is through education. When it becomes an unprofitable venture, they will have no reason to continue. But every woman who sends them money emboldens them more and more.
We must get the word out to other people to stop the cycle. It’s the only way.
Don’t Try to Contact the Real Soldier
I don’t allow pictures of the soldiers women have sent to be posted on my site or social media channels. The soldiers in the pictures are just as much of a victim in this whole thing as you are.
They are also just as powerless to stop the scammer as you are. I would try to find the soldier to tell them about the scam using their images in the beginning.
This did nothing but cause heartache to know that not only had their pictures been stolen, but they were also being used to scam others.
The only benefit is those who had a public profile (which allowed their pictures to be stolen) would often change their settings to private.
I will still find the real soldier in some cases, but I no longer do so to make contact. I do so to prove to the woman who won’t believe otherwise that the person they are talking to is not the man in the picture.
Many times, these soldiers are married with children. For the woman who tells me she must find the real soldier because she’s fallen in love with him, finding the real profile and allowing them to see they have a family already is what needs to happen for closure.
You may believe you have fallen in love with the person in the picture but remember, the real soldier in those pictures doesn’t even know who you are. You have actually fallen in love with the deceitful scammer taking advantage of you and your giving heart.
Please note that I am not always successful in locating the real soldier, and it is a tedious process to try to track down a real person based on the fake information the scammer has shared. I am not able to honor every request to track down the real soldier.
I hope this information has been helpful to you if you have fallen victim to a scam.
If you are having a tough time dealing with the emotional side of everything that has happened, please reach out to a qualified person in your area, whether that’s a clergy member or a therapist.
If you have further questions about how to handle the situation after you’ve been scammed or you’re trying to figure out if you’re the victim of a romance scam involving a soldier, please reach out to me via Facebook Messenger or join our Facebook community.