Nigerian Scammer Networks Are Widespread

Military Romantic Scams – The Theory and Practice

Scammer Industry – Romantic scams a la Casanova style have been around forever, but the Military Romantic scam variant has only taken off since the advent of social media and on-line dating. According to a 2018 BBB Online Romance Scams study, since 2015 this form of cybercrime has become a 1 billion dollar industry in the US alone.

The life cycle of this scam is well documented and understood, but the low-level details and logistics have never been made public. Little is known about their operations, networks, organizational structure, payment collection and clearance methods, the technologies they use, and their relationship with their domestic financial institutions, law enforcement, and politicians.

The public’s perception of cyber scammers is that of modern day pirates; an amorphous buccaneer entity shrouded in mystery that operates from somewhere overseas with what appears to be complete impunity from prosecution and justice.

Two victims of military romance scams (L-R) Kate Roberts and Esther Ortiz-Rodeghero.

The impact of military romantic scams on the victims who are typically older women living on a fixed income is devastating. Some end up going into debt to pay the scammers; others lose their entire life savings.

To add insult to injury, many of the victims continue to be blackmailed and forced into committing crimes like trafficking counter-bid long after they discover that they have been defrauded. This can happen even if they try to terminate their communications with the scammer. Due to the international nature of these scams and the social stigma they carry, most victims have no legal recourse nor a chance of ever recovering their losses.

So in the spirit of Proverbs 31:8-9 “Speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves…”  I’ll try to pull the curtain back on one military romantic scam and do a deep dive into its inner workings and its perpetrators.

Military Romantic Scams 101

At its bare bones, the military romance scam has several variants, all of which revolve around re-purposing images of some serviceman or woman and using them to create a fake profile on a social media or a dating site, then reaching out to a victim and defrauding them.

As can be seen from Image 1 and Table 1, a single set of stolen images can become a source of dozens of fake identities and over 900 concurrently running scams.

#

Fake Name

Running Scam Count

1

Richard Williams

36

2

Burks Richard

27

3

Richard Tonsom

11

4

Canon Hendryx

16

5

Jimmy Bernett

24

6

Richard Canon Miller

12

7

Johnson Smith

15

8

Richard Canon

25

9

Canon Richard

28

10

Thomas Lavallee (Richard)

18

48

Ryann Camryn

19

49

Cannoon Richard

13

Total scams for image

922

Table 1: One of the hundreds of concurrent scams using the same image with different name variations

Once the fake on-line profile is created, the scammer will then pursue certain victim demographics and concentrate their efforts on a previously proven cross-section of susceptible individuals—for example, a divorced or widowed woman over 50.

After the initial contact is established with a victim, the scammer will then engage in a trust-building campaign that can take weeks or months. As part of this process, the scammers will transmit to the victim a wide range of collateral that can include a fake military ID, service photographs, additional social network images, and even address and property information about their fake residence.

The emails, text messages, and step-by-step logic used in these exploits are all based on hundreds of previously tested and successful scams. This makes their decision trees robust and the playbooks plausible and effective. Also, because the operator doesn’t have to waste any time on trial and error approaches, improvisation, or real-time content creation, they can effectively run dozens of concurrent scams by just picking up some template-based material, such as handwritten love letters, and minimally customize them to the specific victim.

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SF Source The Gateway Pundit Sep 2019

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