Sunday, November 07, 2010

Dating Scam Uses Military Information to Con

Two weeks ago an ex-Navy wife was on an internet dating website when she met someone who introduced himself as Christopher Dockery.

"He was a widowed soldier stationed in Camp Promise Kabul -- later I found out there's no Camp Promise," said the woman who wants to remain anonymous.

They would e-mail each other for days. He sent romantic poems and even provided pictures, but when he asked her for money, she knew she had been sucked into a scam.

First, she noticed red flags, like the poor English he used. "Some of the words were not spelled correctly; the use of grammar was not totally there," she added.

She said the second red flag were his so-called needs. "He kept mentioning that they didn't have access to funds at the base," she said.

Finally, she grew even more suspicious when he asked her to send money so he could purchase a satellite phone to stay in touch.

"It was $355. I was to send an order to set up this service," she said.

But she did an internet search and discovered the whole relationship is part of a worldwide scam. She refused to send the money and the relationship dissipated.

"His communication has slowly dwindled," she added.

Military personnel would not have these kinds of communication needs, said John Shockley, executive director of the USO.

"We send prepaid phone cards and there's also USO centers and other military centers for people to use either email, Skype, as well as phone banks to call home," said Shockley.

It is tragic that scammers would stoop this low, he said. "I find it very disturbing and appalling that someone would use a member's name as a front to get some money on a scam."

For this woman, it is a lesson learned. "It is heartbreaking that people are that mean without regard," she said.

No one wants to think they could be duped by an internet dating scam, and yet it happens every single year. So how can you tell if it is a scam?

•Communication is vague, difficult to understand or is repeated.
•Email messages change in tone, language, style or grammar.
•There's a sob story that turns into an emergency and only you can help.

If somebody asks you to wire them cash online, say no.

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