The Stages of a Dating Scam

stages of a military dating scam

You’re on social media, and suddenly a friend request or private message appears from someone you don’t know.

The profile picture is likely of someone in a military uniform, and you’re intrigued.

After accepting the request or responding to the message, you’re suddenly overwhelmed by this person who is quick with praise and compliments.

It may only take a matter of days before he first professes his love for you.

Sound familiar?

This is how a classic scam begins.

It could be on social media or even through a dating site or app.

If the number of messages I’m receiving about scams indicates the volume of them, it is in the tens of thousands, if not hundreds of thousands.

One study showed that American and Canadian citizens lost more than $1 billion in scams in the last three years.

And the scary part of that statistic is it only includes what was reported to the authorities.

While this site focuses on military dating scams, most dating scams are similar.

The military spin to it can make it easier for the scammer to pull off as they can use a deployment to another country as an excuse for long periods before meeting face to face.

It also provides excuses for why other forms of communication (video or phone) are not possible.

Let’s cover the basics of the stages of the scam itself.

Not every fraud will have all of these characteristics, but most will hit a few of these stages, at the very least.

There’s No Discrimination – Love For All

The scammer could be male or female, straight or gay, young or old.

They may be impersonating a high-ranking officer or a lower-ranking enlisted soldier.

Any race, any body type.

Their only concern is about money, and they will play any role necessary to make that happen.

Note: I generally use “he” in referring to the scammer, but it’s just to avoid a constant stream of “he or she” each time I mention the scammer or the victim.

Fall in Love Quickly

You could be in the very beginnings of establishing basic interactions with the person when he proclaims his love for you.

This is always a red flag.

One of my friends had a scammer reach out to her through Facebook messenger.

I had her play along for the firsthand knowledge of exactly how the scam would play out and coached her along the way for what to say next.

It took exactly three days before he said he was in love and was proposing marriage!

Three days!!

While this tends to be the case more often than not, some scammers will continue the relationship for months before asking for anything in return.

Broken English

This has gradually improved over the years as the scams become more sophisticated, but generally, you’ll get a sense that English isn’t their first language.

It could be the words or the sentence structure, but it just doesn’t seem right.

This can become more of an issue when the victim’s first language isn’t English either.

All too often, because of that, they will miss this critical warning sign.

More and more, I’m receiving emails from victims who are overseas, and the scammer is claiming to be an American.

Sob Story of Magnificent Proportions

If all of their stories are true, these “poor” scammers have had a rough life.

They often tell stories about being orphans, being divorced or widowed, raising children on their own who are in boarding school while deployed.

Or they may go so far as having a family member with medical issues that needs immediate attention (and your money!).

There have been a handful of cases where the scammer went for the ultimate guilt trip and combined versions of all of these scenarios into one life story.

The purpose of this is to make you feel sorry for them.

Once they have your sympathy, how could you possibly add to the misery that has been their life by turning down their request?

First Request – Small Gift

When someone emails me about a potential scammer (and just for the record, there hasn’t been one where it turned out he wasn’t a scammer!), one of the first questions I’ll ask is if he has asked for money.

If the scammer has made it to the part of the scam where he is requesting items or money, I would say about 50% of the time, he will ask for a small item first.

The most popular item to request is an iTunes gift card.

This can quickly be sold for cash, and once you’ve delivered it, there’s no way to get the money back.

It’s also virtually untraceable.

Also, it moves the scam to the next level as you’ve now established that you will provide things of monetary value, no matter how small.

The Bigger Ask

Next, it will be the bigger ask.

Some of the scammers go directly for the big one at this point, while others may continue to work their way up in dollar amounts.

These scams range from asking you to apply for their leave (which seems innocent at first) to telling you they are sending a check for a large sum of money because their account is locked.

Sometimes this may be a couple of hundred dollars for processing leave forms, and sometimes it can be in the thousands for their trip back home.

In some cases, he may even tell you he’s returning home so you can be married.

All lies.

Proclaiming Innocence

Soon, you will begin to get that gnawing feeling in your gut that tells you something isn’t right.

Hopefully, this happens before you send any money, though I find that’s usually not the case.

You decide to confront him, only to be met by him acting in one of four ways: (1) anger, (2) sadness, (3) feeling of betrayal, or (4) abandonment.

Unless you’re confronting him for the umpteenth time and have never given him anything of monetary value, the fourth of those options is unlikely to happen.

He will give up and move on to an easier victim at some point, but it generally will not happen the first time you confront him.

This is where many victims get confused. They begin to doubt their gut.

They will often tell me in emails that they asked if he was a scammer, and he got agitated that after everything they have shared, she could think that of him.

Always, always, always trust your gut.

Admitting the Scam

This happens in a tiny percentage of cases, but sometimes when confronted, the scammer will admit it was a scam.

The story then changes to be that although it started as a scam, he has truly fallen in love with you.

If you maintain the connection with them, the entire process starts again.

Because they’ve admitted the scam to you at that point, your guard is generally down, and it’s that much easier to take advantage of you.

Threatening Behavior

As the scammer sees less and less of a chance to turn the “relationship” into a monetary gain for himself, he may begin threatening you.

This generally happens when the victim refuses to send any money as she has figured out it’s a scam.

The threats can be much more vicious if the victim has sent money before and is now suddenly stopping.

This is typically nothing more than an empty threat.

You must remember their goal is to get you to provide money, not use their own money to track you down in another country.

It’s easier for them to just put their focus on finding the next victim.

But if sending a threatening email will land them hundreds or thousands of dollars, then why wouldn’t they try?

If you’re feeling fear due to the threats, you can always report the behavior to your local authorities.

As I said, not every scam will follow this pattern exactly as it is here.

But many share at least some of these characteristics.

Over time, these scammers have become more and more sophisticated.

Unfortunately, social media has made it even easier to scam others.

Whether it’s through finding people to scam, stealing pictures from public profiles, or setting up their profile to lend an air of legitimacy, social media has made it harder and harder to discern what’s real versus not.

Overall, it all comes down to the money.

If you’re asked for money in any format, whether it be cash, gift cards, money transfers or wires, purchasing items, or helping them to cash checks, it’s a scam.

stages of a military dating scam

17 thoughts on “The Stages of a Dating Scam”

  1. So here is how my scam experience went. The girl said she was deployed with the Air force in Iraq. Within a few days she accidentally dropped her phone in the water. Now she didn’t ask for a new phone right away but would complain the screen was freaking out from time to time. Well, last night the truth finally came out. Her patrol supposedly got attacked and she somehow manages to lose her ATM and military id but not her phone? Also she has already used the i am in a remote area and because all calls are monitored she isn’t supposed to call or face time. And what was way weird was her asking what my cell phone carrier was. Who asks that? Also after saying she couldn’t get a new phone she hinted at me being able to help her get a new phone. She was also inconsistent when claiming it would be expensive to get a new one sent over but also claimed it would be expensive for me to try to get her one(which trust me i was not going to do). Thank you for the great information on this site.

  2. I have been off the planet in love for the last few days. American serving in Helmand. Pics are out of this world. Bare torso, military uniforms, all in a convincing locker room. I even commented that they looked like pictures from the start of a Gay porn movie. First realised the English was slightly off? Not good for someone half English and half American. Both have English as a Mother tongue. Parents died in car crash and alone in the world. What caught me out was that we met on a legitimate site. Never asked for money but for two days sent wonderful love letters and full commitment. Last two days nothing just waiting to see if he makes a move? In between I have found this site and I recognise so much. How very silly of me. Goes by the name of robert staples at hotmail. Such a looker I am keeping the pictures x

  3. I am talking to a solider, says he needs assisted with some money. Because they really don’t get enough to eat. He mention it several times. But I am kind of doubting it, i thought the army fed the soldiers well. And they don’t go hungry!

  4. My mom is being scammed so far out of over $200,000. Jacob Terenas is supposedly in the army and got left behind in Iraq and needed my elderly mom to pay for him to get home. A UN diplomat is “helping” get him and some bars of gold home. The gold was sent to a port in NY. Mom had to pay to help the diplomat Carlos Alvarez home and for his travel expenses. The money is sent to his assistant Gloria Sepulveda in Alice Tx and sometimes in Vegas.

    I have contacted & made reports to the FBI, state and local police & even filed for limited conservatorship. No one has helped. Everyone says they can’t do anything if she is willingly giving her money away.

    What should I do? How do I get people to help?

  5. Gentlemen, I believe I have fallen for a scam. He never wanted to give his military email and gave many excuses about not having parents, two children in the US with a guardian, the account closed… And it started
    to ask for small amounts of money: on the phone, for a medication I needed, to send papers…
    I wish they would catch him, but I guess it’s hard. I am surprised that he showed pictures of his supposed children and that he also wanted to talk to mom. He calls himself Mark Williams, in Iraq and now in Syria.

  6. So I had a guy message me on a popular gay site. Before you know it we are chatting and a day later he asks to chat on facebook messenger. He showed all the classic signs of a catfish. What unfortunately swayed me was he showed 2 very quick “poor reception “ videos of him and his daughter. After seeing this video, I, naïvely thought he was legitimate. We were supposed to meet, but he had to go to New York to work at a military hospital. He told me he was an orthopedic After seeing this video, I, naïvely thought he was legitimate. We were supposed to meet, but he had to go to New York to work at a military hospital. He told me he was an orthopedic surgeon for the military. He even had a legitimate Facebook profile. From New York he got deployed to Nairobi. He told me it was his last six months of being in the military. Then he was going to retire and open his own practice in Michigan. sadly I still went along with this. I called him out several times on being a catfish and he still managed to sway me. Sadly I still went along with this. I called him out several times on being a catfish, and he always managed to have a way to change my mind. What made things worse was that? He said he would make it up to me. And unfortunately, yes, I gave him my address so we could write each other. The week that he was sent to New York he had pizza delivered to my place and the next day $200 worth of flowers. he said he was doing this to make up for not being able to meet up with me. Well, now he had me convinced he was real. We spoke every day for 57 days. After a month he called me in an attempt to video chat on another very poor reception that lasted maybe 30 seconds. The words didn’t go with the mouth. Of course, he claimed he was in a location in Africa on a
    military base. The soldiers were in the process of building a new tower for phone reception. Once again, I started questioning him as a catfish. Then he sent me a picture of a very good looking military guy. A friend suggested that I do a reverse image on the photo to see if it was legitimate. How shocked, angry, and sad I was when the picture Fell into the profile of a military scam, catfish of a very notable British soldier. As I searched photos, I also discovered several other photos that this guy had placed in his Facebook profile. Including photos of his “daughter”. of course, this would happen the day after his supposed birthday. He did claim that he was having bank problems, but did not ask me for money. He just kept hinting on it. He even offered to send me bank records to show the issues he was having with his account. I told him not to send them because of identity theft.

    when I discovered all of these photos of him I called him out on this. At first, he played stupid, saying that he would prove that he was real when the tower was built and he could FaceTime me longer. Then he kept sending emoji’s of him thinking. Before I knew it, he had unfriended me on Facebook and hasn’t spoken to me since.

    I spent a week confused and sad. Why would a catfish spend at least $200 on me to make him feel real? I still don’t understand.

    The little voice in my head has to keep telling myself that he was not real, and the photos that he was showing me were someone else. This just shows the extreme that catfish will go through today to convince someone they are real and to get cash. Always go with your gut. If someone is interested, at least a video chat with them for several months and do as much research as you can. If you feel something is off. Reverse image, searching, will help a lot!

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