Saturday, June 1, 2013

Military profiles and scammers

Recently I have noticed a surge in Military personnel profiles being used on Facebook and dating sites, and the concerns about socializing with them while on deployment. This is a big concern for me, and it should be for you too, as the person you are communicating with is likely to be a scammer, not a military hero.

I reached out to my nephew who is now a retired US Marine. He was among the first to be deployed to Afghanistan, and then first troops to attack Baghdad in the beginning of bringing down Saddam Hussein. Before going to those countries, his base was on lock down, which means they were not to leave their base for any reason.  Their bags were packed and ready for when they got their orders to deploy. He hadn’t had access to his personal computer or any social sites to go on, his cell phone was even limited to use.  While waiting for those orders he trained 9 to 10 hours a day, getting up at 5am and doing maneuvers with his troop or attending special classes to learn the culture where they were going and combat drills. By the end of the day he came home tired and slept most of the time.  His entire troop was on heightened readiness, just waiting to get that call.
Yes, our military does allow our troops to have access to social media sites. The government allows this so that personnel who are on deployment overseas communicate with family and friends. With that said, the Military also has rules and regulations that must be followed and personnel must adhere to those rules. Commanders control who can have access and which social networking sites personnel uses. Our troops have access to the military’s computers, not personal computers brought from home; therefore the restriction using them is high priority.  It can be shut down for any malicious usage.

Once deployed to those countries, his troop was high alert:  no more emails to his wife and kids and nor to his mother. When he could talk to them or send messages, he was not allowed to talk about his location or tell them anything about what he was doing. A typical day was getting up & putting on all of their armor gear. They would set out in armored trucks with special communication devices not accessible to the public. They would patrol the streets, search homes and deactivate any suspicious devices found, some safely and some that ended up in injuries. These patrols would last all day and into the night.  Some of these patrols were in hostile territory and in places where electricity is hard to come by.  Laptops and/or cell phones were not part of their regulation gear.  In these countries, cell towers were not common as here and if a tower is there, it is for opposite usage and not ours.  When their maneuver was over, they returned to their base. Yes, they had down time. Some would play games with other enlisted men and women; others would check up on emails or make calls to their families.  Mostly, this down time was used to clean up their gear and get ready for their next patrol, or just plain sleep.

The Military has made strides in allowing the personnel to popular social networking sites like YouTube, Facebook and Twitter; however it is still up to the individual’s Commanding Officer what can be said or used on those sites.  The Commanding Officer can shut them down if deemed necessary or restrict certain sites all together. The soldier who uses these sites can never give away his position, tell what they are doing and can be reprimanded if they do. Some commanders limit the friendship the soldier has on those sites and some even forbid adding new contacts or befriending anyone without permission. Advocates for these soldiers are trying to limit that control, but still it is ultimately up to the commander. This rule also applies to non-military personnel, one who are there on private contracts for the military.

I read an article once asking women why they are more attracted to our military personnel. When given three pictures of men two in uniform and one in business suite, the majority of women picked first the solider in his fatigues, second was either police officer or firefighter and last was the man in a business suite. When asked why these women chose them, they replied that solider attracted them as being a strong person, trustworthy and protective. Same question was asked about the police officer and firefighter and the response was these men show masculinities for being protective; they put themselves last to protect other. Now with the business man the response wasn’t exactly the same, women said they had a head for making money, would be a good provider but wasn’t as protective for them. Also they mentioned that the military personnel just looked good in uniform and well I cannot dispute that one. There is something to be said about a man in uniform.
Now that leads me to: How can you befriend a military soldier on Facebook, communicate with them for hours at time and at different times of the day? With all of their responsibilities while on deployment it is not feasible to chat for long periods of time and on military computers. Scammers take advantage of these social sites, lure men and women to befriend them, chat for hours.  They know how we feel pride in our Military people, they take advantage that we respect them and have trust in them. Why else would another human person put their lives on the line every day to protect us? And then the scammer makes promises to come see you and usually they will ask for funds to help bring them home or to travel to your country.

When a soldier signs up for two to four year contract with the government, they are held to the contract to the very end. When their contract is up during times of war or deployment, it is up to their commander to either grant passage back to States or extend their contract. Soldiers are given time off while on deployment, but they cannot leave that country unless it is back to the States. The government supplies them with the transportation back home either to serve out their contract or to discharge them from service. The government will not send an active soldier to another country first before being discharged. Vacations to them are same as ours:   they have to be requested in writing when they would like to take their leave and it may be granted or denied without reason. Special permission must be granted also if a soldier needs emergency leave for family illness or death.  They just cannot take vacation and leave their post especially to another country, and they still can be called back to post at any given time no matter the cause or reason.

Once sent back to the States and discharge is granted, only then can that person make plans to visit another country at their own expense. They are now a civilian. And if you have ever known someone in the military, you know that being discharged is not a quick process. As for non-military contract persons, they have made arrangements with their companies for financial support and supplies. It a big red flag when your chat buddy tells you their credit cards are frozen, or that they cannot access them, or they lost the money and need funds to finish the job. The government takes special care when hiring these contractors.  Formal bid processes are used to identify what resources are needed and how much they will cost. If they over-extend themselves, the contract is terminated and another contractor is sent in.

Now I am not saying we shouldn’t communicate with our military personal.  The government has official sites you can go under and befriend them or like their posts and play games. If you are speaking with someone who says they are military, ask questions and a lot of them. If they don’t respond right away or avoid your questions, that means they are doing their research, googling the answers. Other red flags: being asked for money to supply their works or to fly to meet you. It’s important to be proactive nowadays on social site. Scammers do their research and very well. They know just what to say to reel you in their web of lies;  know the right loving words that we all like to hear, and sometimes needs to hear. Military IP’s will identify government or where a person is stationed, so if you check the IP address of an email, it should indicate a military installation. If your IP is binged to yahoo’s home site or Google’s home site that is a sign that person is not real.

Another thing to consider, as troops finally begin to come home, there are fewer troops in Baghdad or Kabul.  There is now more turmoil there and with recent bombings, chaos has erupted, leaving what troops we have there less and less time to spend on the internet chatting.  Please be careful for yourself and for your hearts. And I hope this helps clear up some of your doubts about who you are chatting with.


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