I tend to get a lot of emails with questions on a variety of aspects of military life, mostly on the subjects of Okinawa and PTSD. This makes complete sense, as there is a lot about each subject in the depths of this blog. Last month though, I got my first email from someone who had been scammed by a man claiming to be a Marine. Fortunately, this woman was smart enough to figure out what was going on when he started asking for money. A quick Google search and she figured out he wasn’t who he said he was.
She was understandably mad about this, but she was also curious as to who the real man behind the pictures was. Was he even aware his pictures were being used? Was he possibly not even alive? She reached out to see if I could help find him. His rank is visible in pictures, but his name tape was not. I enlisted the help of a friend and we weren’t able to find him, but I’m going to keep trying. I would want to know if someone was using my pictures for nefarious deeds.
So how do you know if you are really talking to a guy (or woman) in the military? There are a number of red flags to look for.
They Ask For Money
This is the biggest, boldest red flag there is. They don’t need money to go on leave. It could be that they have crappy money management skills and do need money to pay for a plane ticket or whatever to come see you (even then don’t give them money), but to actually get permission to go on leave, there is no money involved in that. They always have access to their money, even if deployed. If they can get on the internet to message you, they can access their money. No money is ever needed for their unit to release them or whatever. That’s not how it works. If they are deployed, depending on the length of the deployment, they will get to come home for R&R. The military covers the cost.
Need Money For Internet, Travel, Food, Etc.
Again, if they are deployed, the military provides all of this. All of it. There is no basic living expenses that aren’t covered. Sure, they may want something special from home that they can’t get over there, but by all means, send a care package. Don’t send money. Even if deployed, they have an address to receive mail. If they can’t provide an address, they are legit.
Claim To Be Special Forces
Or any other kind of super, secret, squirrel Delta Force Ranger SEAL (if you don’t know what I did there, Delta Force and Rangers are both Army, but completely different things, and SEAL’s are Navy. I’m sure Rangers can be Delta Force, but neither can be SEAL’s and I doubt any Delta Force would call themselves Rangers.). The liars always claim to be special forces because it sounds better and odds are they don’t know enough about the military to claim anything else. Also, they can claim to not be able to tell you about their ‘missions’ aka sitting in their mom’s basement.
On A 4 Year Deployment
There’s no such thing. During the height of the wars, the longest deployments were around 18 months. Most now are under a year. They can be sent somewhere unaccompanied (meaning they can’t take their family) for a year or two, but these are cushier and not in combat areas.
Names Don’t Add Up
If pictures are stolen, especially those in uniform, you can see their last name on the name tape across the chest. Rank is also either on the collar or breastbone (rank can be looked up online based on what branch they are). If these don’t match to what they told you, question it. Question everything. A legit person will explain it all to you.
If something is up, report it. The military encourages you to report it to the FBI’s Internet Crime Center. You can also report fake profiles on Facebook and dating sites.
Basically, if he starts asking for money, stop. Just stop. Stop talking to him, as hard as that may be. You deserve better than any man asking for money, whether he claims to be in the military or not.