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Social media scams targeting military members

(U.S. Air Force graphic/Senior Airman Eboni Reece)

(U.S. Air Force graphic/Senior Airman Eboni Reece)


As long as there are people making an honest living, there will always be individuals looking to profit at the expense of others. These scam artists attempt the same age-old tricks with upgraded twists as new avenues for exploitation become available. From those aimed toward the elderly to IRS taxpayer rip-offs, these scams usually cater to a particular demographic.

The latest victims of a recent “money-flipping scam” have been military personnel —specifically those with certain banking institutions, such as Navy Federal Credit Union and United Services Automobile Association.

Within the last 18 months, swindlers have been targeting young military members, primarily on the social media site, Instagram. The scam is initiated by fraudsters who hunt for users who create or like posts containing military-affiliated hashtags such as #AirForce and #USAF then make direct contact with them.

Results from banking institution investigations show that nearly 87 percent of members lured by this scam are younger than 31 years of age, and 47 percent are active-duty military personnel.

Here is a more detailed look at the con:

-Scammer sends a message offering a large sum deposit to establish dialogue with victim
-Victim provides account information
-Scammer uploads a phony check into the account using a mobile banking application, which is usually immediately available for withdrawal
-Scammer withdraws the money and victim is held accountable for the funds - which has a negative impact on credit score, reputation, etc.
-The amounts range from $2,000 to $20,000, growing the debt of the victim in a matter of minutes.

Because members participate in the scam, regardless of whether or not they are aware it is a scam, they can be held responsible for the fraudulent funds. This could risk the financial well-being of the account holder and any associated co-signers.

These social media scammers often pose as representatives from banking institutions and offer money to help with living expenses. As if that were not worthy of an eyebrow raise, these same scammers often pose as military personnel in uniform who are depicted as ‘living the good life’ by posting photos with large amounts of money and lavish gifts.

Ultimately, the desire for easy money can have some hard consequences. By participating in frauds such as these, service member’s run the risk of ruining their credit score and potentially losing their security clearance, which could result in losing their job. Service members could also face prosecution under the Uniformed Code of Military Justice, potentially leading to punishment up to and including court martial proceedings, and discharge from military.

If you find yourself in a tough spot financially, there are many resources available to you through various avenues. Airmen are encouraged to utilize helping agencies, such as the Airman & Family Readiness Center.

Reporting a suspicious post on Instagram or any other social media site and not engaging with a potential scammer are the optimum options. Additionally, you can report the individual by contacting your banking institution.

Take a moment to think about any offers that seem too good to be true, especially if they are coming from individuals you do not know personally. If it looks phishy, it probably is.

MC Hammer, a recording artist from the 1980s, once proclaimed he was ‘too legit to quit,” but in instances like this, if it is NOT legit, then quit.