Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Romance Scams Using Fallen Military Heroes

As bad as any romance scams are, they just seem so much worse when they involve stolen photos of fallen military heroes.  Recently the parents of Army Lt. Peter Burks have sued two separate online dating websites because the fallen hero's photo has shown up on both sites.  Is it going to have to come to unsuspecting family members joining in the fight to stop romance scammers after they find their loved ones' photos plastered all over the internet in this horrible fashion?  The dating sites don't seem to care that scammers are creating fake profiles using stolen photographs.  All those nice profiles just pad the dating sites to make them look like there are so many more good looking singles out there just waiting for us to fall in love with them...just waiting on us to pay for our memberships just to be able to contact our possible new loves.  In some cases the dating sites offer their services to us for free but it doesn't change the fact that the sites are full of fake profiles and stolen photographs. 

We all feel bad about what victims go through every day because of these scammers.  We all deal with knowing that the photos we thought belonged to the person we were talking to and hoping to meet were stolen from someone and somewhere else.  We do what we can to heal from the emotional and financial damage caused by these scammers.  Some of us even think we should try to find the real people the photos belong to and let them know what is going on.  But should we?  We have to remember that these people are also victims of the scams.  Sometimes unsuspecting victims like Burks' family.  Many times these photos are just stolen from someone else's public profile.  We love to share our photos with our friends and sometimes with the world.  Military heroes' families love to showcase their loved ones' photos to honor and memorialize them.  They should have that right to do so without fear of having those photos stolen and used to harm someone else.  

When a man or woman searching for love through an online dating site finds what they believe is a real romance with a person in the military, the trust factor can be even stronger because this person is supposed to be a soldier and trustworthy.  Why would anyone think the photos are stolen and the profiles fake?  It takes digging and knowing how the military works to break through to the truth sometimes.  Now here is the other side of the scam.  Here is the family of a fallen hero finding out their son's photos were placed on dating sites without their permission (or his, of course).  How do they fight back?  Where do they go for help?  Will fighting the dating site help?  I certainly hope that this family wins this law suit.  Maybe it will help in the battle to stop dating sites from allowing Nigerian romance scammers to join with fake profiles.

Should romance scam victims try to find the real people in the stolen photos?  I still don't believe it is a good idea because it only hurts more people in the process.  But when those people do find out, then what?  Some of them may be former victims themselves and the photos they gave their scammers are now being used to scam others.  Some may just be people who placed photos on public profiles on social networks and now have opened the door to having them stolen by scammers.  No matter where the photos originally came from, the true owners of those photos are victims of the scammers.  If they find out their photos have been used in this way, it will cause pain.  When will dating sites stop accepting fake profiles from Nigerian romance scammers?  What is it going to take?

Our chat room is open, as is our email group, for anyone who is a victim of romance scams. We are here to help you heal.