COLLIER COUNTY, Fla. - Soldiers are putting their lives on the line for freedom, only to find out someones used their good names to scam people for money.
Right now, the U.S. Army is fielding hundreds of calls form women who say they were scammed on dating websites by people posing as military personnel.
"You just feel cheap you know," one veteran says of this scam, hitting too close to home.
Dating websites may be a source for love, but the Army says they're also becoming a source for thieves posing as soldiers.
"They're taking those identities and using them and building relationships off that soldier's name and photograph," Chris Grey with the Army's Criminal Investigation Command explains.
Grey says the posers have been using social networking tools, even press releases, to get names and pictures of soldiers. Then, the fakes try to connect with women.
"They prey on the patriotism and the emotions of certain people," he tells WINK News.
Before you know it, the thieves are asking for money because they're stationed in another country. One victim who came forward took out a second mortgage on her home and sent over $25,000 to a scammer, whom she thought was a soldier she had fallen in love with.
Vets who have laid their lives on the line are outraged by this scam.
"I think it sucks, I think they ought to be crucified," former Marine Corp Jack Martens says.
Navy veteran Harry Krouse calls the people behind this disgusting. He says soldiers already have enough to worry about when returning from war, "can you imagine coming home and hearing this nonsense."
The Army says most of these scams are run out of other countries, making it difficult for them to find and prosecute. However, they were able to bust a ring operating in the U.S. two months ago.
Here are tips from the U.S. Army to detect real soldiers from fakes.
What to look for:
• If you do start an Internet-based relationship with someone, check them out, research what they are telling you with someone who would know, such as a current or former service member.
• Be very suspicious if you never get to actually speak with the person on the phone or are told you cannot write or receive letters in the mail. Servicemen and women serving overseas will often have an APO or FPO mailing address. Internet or not, service members always appreciate a letter in the mail.
• Be extremely suspicious if you are asked for money for transportation costs, communication fees or marriage processing and medical fees.
• Many of the negative claims made about the military and the supposed lack of support and services provided to troops overseas are far from reality - check the facts.
• Be very suspicious if you are asked to send money or ship property to a third party or company. Often times the company exists, but has no idea or is not a part of the scam.
• Be aware of common spelling, grammatical or language errors in the emails.
If you are unsure Grey suggest you call any service branch for help.