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July 28th, 2010
08:00 AM ET

Military impersonators scamming women online


Perry and Paula Browning hold a photo of their son, Brian, who was killed in Iraq in 2007. (CNN)

(CNN) – Criminals are using photos of soldiers stolen off the Web to create fake profiles of eligible bachelors on a host of different dating Web sites. The scammers' goal? Lure women into falling in love, only to dupe them out of money in the end. CNN has confirmed it's happening to everyone from infantrymen all the way up to generals at the Pentagon. Special Investigations Unit correspondent Abbie Boudreau introduces to some victims of the crime. Watch Video


Filed under: Crime • Military
soundoff (18 Responses)
  1. b middup

    I am a woman from the UK who had this random email on facebook.
    He said he was a us naval officer serving in Afganistan and was widowed and lonley and was looking for friendship. We got talking and stuck up a good friendship and then he started sending me special poems.We talked more and more and i fell and love with him and he said he felt the same. The last e mail he sent was a week ago telling me how much he loved me and couldnt wait to meet me. I ve e mailed him him several times to see if he is ok as i am worried in case something has happened to him. It looks like i am part of a scam and my heart is broken and im struggling to get my life back together. He has not blocked me on facebook which i find strange as you would have thought he would ve had disappeared. Is there any way to find out if this person is genuine or not?

    August 5, 2010 at 4:40 am |
  2. HAguilarDOF

    How can you report a potential scam?

    August 3, 2010 at 7:43 pm |
  3. Lisa Hatfield

    Who can we contact to see if that person is really in forces and make sure they are legit. I have concerns about someone i have been corresponding with but dont know how to check? Any suggestions?

    July 28, 2010 at 9:43 pm |
  4. JDBD

    I am a vietnam vet and it makes me sick to here about this scamm dead beates are part of we hold on to our pride and served our county with honor so I say get back and hope you get caught.

    July 28, 2010 at 5:59 pm |
  5. Cheri Valentine

    I am appauled at this story. How dare anyone to use the soldiers that faught and died for this country for their own personal gain. What are they thinking, get a real job like everyone else. I may have run across a couple of these guys. I was chatting on Love and Seek website and two of the men I was chatting with gave me this song and dance after two emails, they start calling you baby, telling you they love you and all that trash. They ruin it for the honest people. They both ask me for money and one guy even sent me flowers and a teddy bear. I would love so much to be part of catching these men and bring them to justice. They will answer to God for their actions. I hope and pray they are all caught soon. The punishment better fit the crime, this is very wrong and should get priority investigation.

    July 28, 2010 at 1:26 pm |
  6. Robert B.

    This is messed up, there are some sick people out there. This needs to be stopped. I have too many friends in the military, both over seas and ones who are back from Iraq, to want to see this happen to anyone in the military. I agree with Michael that this is a disgrace to any military personel.

    July 28, 2010 at 12:32 pm |
  7. Robert

    I want to get involved in helping track these scum suckers down. I am a retired Army 1SG and this is horrible and disrespectful. How do we get involved? How can we help?

    July 28, 2010 at 12:11 pm |
  8. Army '72

    I put these scammers in the same category has "Stolen Valor" perpatrators – scum. To say nothing can be done I'm not so sure. The United States still has some influence around the world and perhaps through the Secretary of State's office we can do something to reduce these scams and put these perpatrators in jail.

    As an Army Vet I believe we owe our respect to those that serve in the Armed Forces and to their families. Their sacrifices alone mandate that we do what we can to protect their identity and names.

    The women who have become victims of these scammers have paid a very expensive price, both financially and emotionally. Recovery of their money is very unlikely. However, I hope they do not come to believe that everyone who is searching for companionship is out to do them harm. The first clue to watch for is any request for money. Any man worth having isn't going to ask for funding to come visit or to move closer to them. Before you let your heart govern your action think of what you would do if things were reversed...would you ask for money from someone you really didn't know?

    July 28, 2010 at 11:17 am |
  9. Pam

    In this day and age it is normal for men and women to use dating sites. Can CNN give us tips on how to protect ourselves from fraudulent people. How can you check where the emails are coming from? how can you check the pictures?

    July 28, 2010 at 10:45 am |
  10. CJ

    Former Army wife, while I sympathize with your plight, you are way off base. To judge all the women being taken in these scams because of the actions of ONE in your circumstance is wrong and selfish. The overwhelming majority (nearly all) of the women I speak to that have been affected by this were contacted by these guys – not the other way around.

    I understand that sometimes these women fall in love with the images used and want to contact the real men for closure, but none that I've spoken to have wanted or tried to take them away from loving families.

    Again, it's a shame what happened to your family, but your military husband also has some culpability. As a Soldier, i've been hit on many times as well, but handled it the right way as a married man and didn't let it affect my marriage.

    July 28, 2010 at 10:45 am |
  11. Henry C. Service

    This is a story about an internet scam being run out of Africa. The press and anyone associated with the internet have been warning about these scams for several years now. So, there is nothing new in the story except that the pictures being used are of American servicemen. Are we supposed to feel MORE outraged because the pictures being used are of soldiers, even though the scams are still hurting the same Americans they have always hurt?

    This type of blind and senseless devotion to a uniform is really why other countries don’t get us. Logically, we should feel the same way no matter who is taken advantage of. This story is more worthy of FOX news – CNN should stop peddling an agenda and just report the news.

    July 28, 2010 at 10:45 am |
  12. Vicky Fetzer

    Thank you for doing this story. Nothing is sacred to these out of country scammers. They are prevelant on the dating sites and use civilian pictures as well. More exposes need to be done on the subject. Women need to wise up. The computer is just another tool for many cyber criminals.

    God bless the men and women who have made the ultimate sacrifice
    for our country and their surviving families. These heros are not forgotten .

    July 28, 2010 at 10:37 am |
  13. Adriana

    This is the most hideous act! They are going too far! As a military wife I sympathize with all of the families and the women victims of the scam.

    July 28, 2010 at 10:23 am |
  14. Peter McBride

    CNN should be informing the public that the Red Cross is the official link between the U.S. military and civilians. Any family crisis (including issues such as hospitalization questions or concerns) are handled through the Red Cross.

    The Red Cross never asks the family or soldier for money. Never.

    If the public understands this, then these web sites can say anything they want. But when the matter turns to "Please send money", we know it is nothing but a scam.

    July 28, 2010 at 10:05 am |
  15. Robyn Carson

    This is my nephew and it's devastating enough that he is no longer with us but then to have someone use him for a scam is unthinkable. This also happened to a girlfriend of mine; the guy sent her flowers and a teddy bear for Mother's Day and then about a week later started asking for $$$.
    This is a major problem and I do hope if enough of us start speaking up, this can be stopped.

    July 28, 2010 at 9:37 am |
  16. former army wife

    This is horrible!!
    The whole story should be covered here. Both sides!!! There are hundreds of thousands if not more of these women out there TROLLING the internet looking for lonely service members to pay attention to them.
    I've been dealing with this for over a year and a half since my husband returned. Most wanted the "Officer & a Gentelman" story. They don't care about the families. They put themselves out there hoping for the happily ever after with some brave war hero.
    How many marriages & families have been destroyed because of these women???? So what some are getting taken. GOOD!!! There is some justice in the world after all!!!!
    My family has been destroyed by one of these "Trollers" She watched my husband for a while to see how he interacted with people. When she figured out how to play him, she contacted him. When he came home & tried to go back to a normal life, she stalked me & my children on sites like facebook to gain information to use to manipulate him.
    It's been a year & a half, my life is still in chaos because of her.
    And she was only one of hundreds of women who took advantage of the "Support The Troops" sites to gain access & try to manipulate things to have a service member.
    The only victims in all this are the service members families. Those whose service member is being used either to scam someone or being scammed themselves.

    July 28, 2010 at 9:11 am |
  17. Michael Armstrong Sr.

    The military people of this country active and vet's weep for you this is a disgrace to all of us that are serving and have served and if one of these persons cross our paths then justice will be served .

    July 28, 2010 at 9:02 am |
  18. US Army Captain

    This has happened to me. My picture was taken off the web then used on multiple dating websites to scam money from women. I was finally contacted by two of the women that were scammed and had to explain that it was not me they were talking to. They sent me months of IM chats, e-mails, pictures and even a fake passport with my picture on it. This is a serious problem and something needs to be done. -US Army Captain

    July 28, 2010 at 8:41 am |