ST. PAUL, Minn. — The Minnesota National Guard has assigned someone to monitor social media amid growing concern about scammers using soldiers’ identities on Facebook and other places.
The U.S. Army receives hundreds of reports each month from people being victimized by criminals stealing a soldier’s identity, Minnesota Public Radio reported.
“I think it’s easy for us to just say, ‘Gosh, you have to be really dumb to fall for this,’” said Minnesota National Guard Master Sgt. Blair Heusdens, who patrols Facebook for fake profiles. “But they’re really good, these impersonators, and so people are falling for this. They are sending money.”
The identity thefts are typically “romance scams,” where scammers try to gain someone’s trust before asking for money, he said.
Online sex scams are on the rise, and American service members are a huge, vulnerable target.
Such scams can appear on Facebook, dating sites and other social media platforms, military officials said.
“They say that the military members need money for transportation, for food, for medical bills and these are things that are covered by the military so they’re using the support the public has for us to ask for things soldiers wouldn’t need money for in the first place,” Heusdens said.
The scammers are often located overseas, which he said makes holding them accountable difficult. While a fake profile might get taken down, more will often go up in its place, Heusdens said.
Command Sgt. Maj. Douglas Wortham has personally reported more than 20 instances over the past few years of scammers who used his military persona on Facebook.
“Early on, very few were ever removed and recently they’ve been removing the majority of the ones that I’ve been submitting so you know they probably have changed along the way as well,” Wortham said.
Facebook officials said they have a dedicated team and automated systems to help find and block identity scams.