When you meet someone online, especially those claiming to be in the military, you have to be careful to guard your heart as well as your wallet.
As these scammers seek to establish a relationship with you, they will use our service members’ identity to gain your trust.
Usually, within a matter of even a few days, they will make the first ask for something of monetary value. Typically, they will begin with an item of smaller value.
Even though most will ask very early on in the “relationship,” it doesn’t always happen that way.
The scammer is likely trying to manage multiple scams at once, so it could take longer in some instances for the first ask to occur.
Do not think you’re in the clear if he hasn’t asked for anything yet, regardless if you’ve been talking for weeks or even months.
The Easy Ask: iTunes Cards
An iTunes card is a typical first ask. It’s relatively inexpensive and also available almost anywhere.
In most cases, they don’t want the physical card; instead, they want you to send them the code on the back of the card that will allow them to access the card’s value.
If they can get you to agree to this smaller monetary amount, they know they have a warm lead. The following request may be additional iTunes cards (or other gift cards), or they may go in for the more significant dollar amount.
Asking for a phone is another early ask. This could be in the form of asking for a phone card or even asking you to pay for a phone and/or phone plan so they will be able to chat with you.
Soldiers don’t need a phone card or phone to chat with you when they are overseas. They can go to the MWR area where they are and use the phone for free to call anywhere and anyone they need to call.
Many bases now have wifi available, allowing them to call, chat, text, and video conference through various avenues.
Don’t let them tell you that they are in a remote area and don’t have access to either. At a minimum, they will have satellite phones with them.
My husband deployed four times with special operations, and we never paid for a single phone call.
If they tell you it’s a security risk for them to be able to call you through any of the traditional methods, then why wouldn’t it be the same through the avenue they’re attempting to get you to go through instead?
There is nothing secure about Facebook messenger, hangouts, Whatsapp, dating apps, etc., yet they’re using those platforms to communicate with you. Please don’t fall for it.
Fees for Forms
In some cases, they will propose marriage and fill you with lies about the fairytale life you’ll live once he returns home from the deployment.
However, to be engaged, he will tell you to complete forms to be sent to his commander.
They will sometimes refer to this as a fiancée form. They may also tell you that you need to complete a form so he can add you to his account, specify you as his next of kin, or entitle you to his pay and/or benefits.
There are no forms for any of this that would be sent from overseas or sent back to his commander. The military doesn’t even acknowledge you until you’re married.
They don’t care who the soldier is dating or engaged to. There is no form to become engaged, or so he can speak with you.
And even if there were such a form, there wouldn’t be a fee associated with it. And it certainly wouldn’t be something his commander is discussing with you.
Money for His Flight
He will tell you that he is returning from deployment soon and needs you to pay for his return flight home so the two of you can be together.
This request may also come in the form of an option he has to return early from deployment or to retire early, but he has to pay a fee to do it. Along with that, he also needs his flight covered.
He may tell you his account is locked, or he doesn’t have access to it overseas. He may promise that as soon as you’re together, he will pay you back for the flight. He needs you to help him pay for it now.
He may even tell you he has new deployment orders, and he will be away even longer than planned unless you’re able to pay for this flight so he can leave early.
This typically involves a sob story about going to a remote or dangerous location. He will tell you how he’s scared and doesn’t think he will make it back if he has to go because of all of the things happening in that location.
Sending You Money, Gifts, or Packages
Believe it or not, the scam will sometimes involve him sending you money (or other goods). Or at least that’s what he would like for you to believe. He is having someone else send money to you as a passthrough.
One of the most common scenarios is him telling you some other person (typically a female relative) will send you money for you to send onto him. He will have wild excuses for why this needs to happen in this way.
In actuality, that female relative is another victim of the scam who believes they are sending the money to a female relative who can then get the money to him.
This is money laundering. And by accepting what is essentially stolen funds and passing it along to him (or through other “agents”), you have just committed a crime. On top of that, it also became much harder to trace the money as it’s passing through multiple people’s hands.
In other cases, he may say he is sending you money. He may send you a check to deposit and then tell you to send the money to him. He will be very adamant about you sending the money as soon as you receive the check.
The reason for this is the check is going to bounce. It will generally take a few days for it to bounce back to the bank. In the meantime, you’ve sent the money to him, the check bounces, and you’re now out your own money. Plus, you will be hit with fees from your bank.
In yet another scenario, he will ask for your bank account or credit card account information to send funds to you (or to have someone send it to you on his behalf supposedly).
I’ve spoken to people who have provided full access to their bank account or credit card to receive these funds.
The funds never arrive though he will continue to tell you that you need to send additional money to pay for processing fees, pay for the courier, or whatever other crazy fees they can imagine.
And you’ve now given a criminal full access to your money. When he uses that money for criminal activities (money he was given access to with your permission), you’re now involved in the crime.
Bottom Line: A Real Soldier Won’t Ask You To Send Money
These are just a few of the ways these scammers may ask for money throughout a relationship. Know that a real soldier will NEVER ask you for money.
A real soldier will also never have to use an agent, a courier, Western Union, or any other service type. He won’t need to route money through a relative, friend, or any other person.
He won’t need to send you money or packages for safekeeping. He wasn’t given anything as a “reward” for a successful mission he needs to get out of the country.
He will also not be routing money through another country. For instance, he won’t tell you to send money to Nigeria when he’s in Afghanistan.
He won’t tell you to send money at all.
Soldiers have access to their bank accounts. They have the supplies they need. They have all the food they need and want.
There is NO reason to send money in any shape or form (actual cash, care packages, gift cards, or any other form of anything that has monetary value).
If You’ve Fallen Victim Before, Watch Out For More
If you’ve already sent money, you need to know that you have been added to the “suckers list.”
I know that’s a harsh name, but this is not a name I made up – it’s what the scammers call it. This is the list they have of people who have sent money.
They sell this list to others, as someone who sent money is more likely to send it again.
You will likely have other scammers reach out to you. And they will all have the same purposes – to get money from you.
Guard your heart and your wallet. Never, for any reason whatsoever, send money to someone you met online.