Online Dating Scam Part Four

Online Dating Scam Part Four

From the desk of Kristen Justis, Director of Marketing and Customer Relations


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In previous postings in this series, I have discussed a widower, a divorcé, and a professional who were victims of online dating scams. One would like to believe scammers would have some conscience and stay away for our active duty military or even our veterans. This is not the case. Scammers are not particular when choosing their victims. Lauth Investigations International, Inc. recently handled a fraud investigation for a young military soldier who had been in a long term, live in relationship with a scammer he met online.  Many believe these scams occur quickly; however, these individuals are committed and they get themselves in deep in order to complete the scam in its entirety.

Below is a description of a Lauth Investigation’s fraud case which shows military are a prime target for these scammers as they are gone from home often for months at a time. They are not able to be in tune with what is happening at home while they are deployed.

The Young Soldier

Jack is a twenty-two year old Army soldier. He met Gina on line while he was stationed in Kentucky. Gina and Jack began dating and their relationship grew over a period of two years. They are in love and decide to move in together. Jack proposes, they move into an apartment and they are ready to start their life.

31970396 - some brick walls isolate a different individual from other people. digital illustration.

In the meantime, Jack has completely isolated himself from his family and friends. His mother, Tara, hadn’t heard from him for over a year. Gina has been added to Jack’s bank account and she has taken control on his finances. In a long term, engaged, relationship, one party taking over the finances is not typically a red flag.

In the summer of 2017, Jack learns he is being deployed to Afghanistan. He attends training in Texas prior to his deployment. While in Texas, Tara broke up with Jack but told him she would watch over his finances and apartment while he was in Texas and through his deployment. Heartbroken and hoping they would get back together once he returned to Kentucky, he agreed to allow her to maintain her control over his finances. Jack even began paying her a monthly rate since she was handling his finances.

After a few weeks of being deployed, Jack finds out, through a neighbor in Kentucky, Tara has moved in another man to Jack’s apartment where he was paying the rent. Once Jack found out, he called Tara and told her he was getting rid of the apartment as he didn’t need it anymore. He advised his parents were coming down to move his items from the apartment.

Jack proceeded to draw up a Power of Attorney for his parents to take over his finances. In the time it took him to get the Power of Attorney, Tara had drained his bank account, shut off his debit card and moved all items from the apartment. By the time his parents arrived at the apartment with a moving truck, the only possessions remaining were some of Jack’s clothes. Tara became a ghost.

Jack’s parents immediately hired Lauth Investigations to attempt to locate Tara in hopes of finding some justice for their son. The experienced private investigators began to uncover the full scope of the fraud which had taken place. The scam on Jack was found to be a well thought out plan.

The private investigators found Tara’s boyfriend who moved into Jack’s apartment was, in fact, her husband. They have pulled this scam on numerous individuals. They meet military personnel online, develop relationships with them (men and women), take over the finances, skim money from the accounts, and disappear with all the money once their true intent surfaces.

piggy bankUnfortunately for the individuals like Jack, they willingly add the scammers to their bank accounts, thereby making the money common property between the two individuals on the joint account. There is no criminal recourse for this action.  The victims may pursue civil action against these thieves; however, the victims generally do not have the money to take this next action.

Lauth Investigations assisted in locating this thieving couple and provided Jack with information to file civil suit against them. Jack reported both individuals to the online dating site they utilized. Hopefully, they will learn their lesson and stop preying on our military.

Private Investigators provide answers for victims and handles cases the police are unable to investigate. Utilizing a private investigation firm is key to uncovering the truth, arming victims with ammunition to proceed as necessary, and hopefully stopping criminals from harming other individuals in the future.


ONLINE BUYING SCAMS: Part 1- The Paypal Scam

We’ve all tried to sell, buy or rent items online through sites such as Craigslist, Ebay, and now, Letgo. Because these sites are so common and used by friends and family, we often get comfortable using them and forget that we are interacting with anonymous strangers. Just this week, I signed up for Letgo and attempted to sell my husband’s motorcycle. We’ve been procrastinating on selling his bike for a few months, so when within 5 minutes of me listing the bike I got a response to purchase it, I was really excited! This excitement; however, almost got me in some trouble.

The Set-Up: Lies Comprise a Buyer Too Good to Be True

The motorcycle was placed on Letgo for $4,500. The buyer, an alleged Sergeant in the Army, started the conversation requesting my personal phone number as he wanted to see more pictures of the vehicle.

In my excitement and not knowing Letgo, I gave my personal number to him, thinking It was . Apparently one of the main rules of Letgo is never take the chat out of their application. I didn’t know this at the time! After I sent him the pictures, he confirmed the price was $4500 and agreed to pay this amount. I questioned when he would like to come and pick up the vehicle. (I was doing the happy dance to have this money coming in and the bike gone!) This is where things got a little weird.


The Red Flags: Multiple Phone Numbers and Asking For Personal Information

The buyer told me he is stationed in North Carolina. (He even sent me a picture of a soldier in Army fatigues standing on base.) He stated he would like to pay via PayPal if I had an account. I got a little nervous (working for a private investigator I’m a little more skeptical of people these days), so I questioned how he planned on picking up the bike. He then texted me from a different number. (Hello, Red Flag!) When I questioned why he changed numbers, he advised the second number was his “secured military line.”

Again, I questioned how he planned on picking up the motorcycle, to which he advised he would send a transport agent to come pick it up once r I get the cash out of PayPal, and then he asked for my PayPal account information again. I told him I didn’t have PayPal and I need cash upon purchase. He stopped responding and I never heard him again. Go figure.


In my sheer excitement of making some extra money and my blinded trust for anyone who wears a United States military uniform, I was a vulnerable target for these kinds of scams. Luckily, my experience working for Lauth Investigations has given me a certain skepticism towards online interactions, a wariness that pushed me to ask more questions and thankfully helped me refrain from giving my Paypal information to this man. It is essential that everyone approaches online interactions with the premise that the person on the other side of the screen has no motivation to be honest with you.


The Paypal Scam: How it Works

I’d like to take a minute and conjecture what this man was attempting to accomplish by contacting me. At Lauth Investigations we have seen cases where fraudsters create a fake e-mail from PayPal they send to “customers” stating the money has been deposited and transferred. The e-mail looks identical to what PayPal sends their customers. This man probably would have sent me a fake confirmation email and then came to pick up the bike before I realized that he never actually paid me. Does anyone check to make sure the e-mail is legitimate? No, which is why I feel the need to write this post. When we get a confirmation that such a large amount of money has been transferred we should always call PayPal directly, from a number on their site not the invoice we receive, to ensure the funds are received and legitimate.

Why, you ask, should we call PayPal directly? Because oftentimes the scammer sets up a fake call center, so when you call the number on the fake e-mail you receive from “PayPal” there are fake Paypal employees waiting to answer your call and confirm the money has been transferred.

Just like anything we do today in this online world, we must enter with extreme caution. Hold your excitement until actual cash is in hand. As much as we  trust our military and veterans, do not let the fact that somebody claims to be a member of the military make you let your guard down. . If someone cannot meet you in person, with cash, question their motives and move on to the next buyer.

In my next article, I will focus on another online scam to look for and ways to protect yourself.