When most people reach out to me about possibly being involved in a military romance scam, they ask about sending me pictures to tell them if the soldier is real.
The answer from me is always the same. Yes, send me any pictures that you can. This can help to identify who the real soldier is. But in no way is this the person you have been communicating with all this time.
Where They Get Pictures of Soldiers
This is one place in particular where social media has been disastrous. Many, many people have their social media profiles set to public.
Even if they have it marked as private, their profile picture is generally still public.
If you’re one of those who change out their profile picture often, you could have multiple images set for public access even within a private profile simply because it used to be the profile picture.
A quick Google image search can reveal the pictures of thousands upon thousands of soldiers.
Within those pictures is the link to where the photo is from, and generally, it’s from their social media profiles, news articles, or, in some cases, the military itself.
It’s effortless to download the pictures and assume the identity of the person within that picture.
When you meet someone online, and they share photos, especially if it’s multiple, you have no reason to believe it’s not that person.
How the Scams Have Changed Over Time
In the very beginning, when people were reaching out to me in the early 2000s about these scams, the pictures used were not soldiers. It would sometimes be who I assume is the scammer himself.
He would have on what appeared to be a military uniform and posing in different scenarios. To a civilian without any military knowledge, the pictures would appear to be legitimate.
For the person with military knowledge, one look at the picture and you knew something was wrong.
There would be things such as U.S. Army badges on an Air Force uniform. They would be wearing the uniform of one branch and the unit insignia of another branch.
It was undeniable in one glance that it was more of someone attempting to play dress-up than it was an actual soldier.
As social media grew in popularity, it slowly changed over to using pictures of real soldiers.
As I described, they would find public social media profiles and download multiple images to be used to create their story and new identity online.
Why I Don’t Post the Pictures Online
I do my best to prevent these soldier’s pictures from being posted online, whether it’s through the website or social media channels.
This infuriates many, as they want him vilified on a public stage for scamming them.
The truth is, the soldier in the pictures is as much of a victim as the person who has their money stolen. He is not a part of the scam and has no idea his pictures are being used in that manner.
The victim is often adamant that they are going to make sure this person pays. And I get it.
If someone managed to swindle me out of thousands of dollars, I would want my revenge as well.
But the person in the pictures isn’t who did it.
While their pictures may be used repeatedly in scams with different people, I don’t post them online because the person in the picture is innocent.
Send me pictures of the actual scammer, and I will gladly blast those out to every possible channel that I have.
But until that happens, I won’t destroy the life of a true soldier who just happened to have his pictures stolen to be used in this way.
Why You Shouldn’t Post the Pictures Either
In that same vein, I’m asking you not to blast out the pictures of the real soldier as the person who scammed you in some way.
I’ve seen this happen too many times when a completely innocent person who is oblivious to the situation is then put in the position to defend himself against people who are now doing their best to make the scammer pay.
In some cases, the soldier’s chain of command was contacted, and they have had to go through formal investigations for something they do not know of.
It’s incredibly unfair these scammers are out there parting honest and trusting people of their hard-earned money.
It’s more unfair a soldier honorably serving his country, with no knowledge of the scam, is also being publicly victimized.
I’d love to hear your thoughts on this subject.
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