As a Department of Army Intern in the 2007-2008 era, the military was just coming to terms with the phenomenon of social media. Like most areas of government, and particular those in charge of national security, the U.S. military is what once would call risk reverse. I had multiple meetings with G-6 types in the Pentagon about military social media use and public communication, and a frequent refrain was ‘can’t we just turn it off?!’ (And for the record, that’s just what they did in many cases – I had to submit a request to access social media sites for my job as a Public Affairs Officer – the average desk jockey had to find another place to surf Facebook and MySpace).
With social media still being ill-defined, I remember one of my tasks became to get Gen. George Casey’s profile off of OkCupid (I don’t think I was the only person to be assigned that task – as fast as they came down, new profiles and new generals seemed to come up). Nevermind that the general was clearly married (Ashley Madison would have been more plausible, but Nigerian princes are not as up on the culture as you’d think) and as the Chief of Staff of the Army probably didn’t need that wire transfer he’d requested – naivety is rampant on the internet, as well as those willing to take advantage.
Considering that was 10 years ago, you would think the Internet would have solidified behind putting scams involving U.S. service members conning gullible women out of their money to bed. That would be an optimistic view of both humanity and dating.
Last week 80 people were hit with charges related to an online scam that targeted women across the country.
“We believe this is one of the largest cases of its kind in US history,” said U.S. Attorney Nick Hanna.
dating scams still heating up
After nearly two decades at war, it would seem that schemes involving military personnel would be dissipating. According to FBI officials, they’re just heating up, and the Federal Trade Commission warned that scams that prey on vulnerable victims – including those targeted by online dating schemes – cost Americans more money than any other frauds reported. More than 21,000 victims were connect into sending more than $143 million in 2018 alone.
The Nigerian scam announced last week centered around a plan to smuggle diamonds. After developing an online relationship through email, the “service member” stationed overseas noted he’d found a bag of diamonds in Syria and needed help smuggling it abroad. The scheme seems far-fetched, but to the right target, it hit its mark.
Don’t be a Victim?
An article released today by the Department of Defense offered tips from Special Agent Deric Palmer, program manager for the Digital Personal Protection Program. He noted that social media accounts can be fertile ground for those looking to lift information and create fake personas. Anyone in the national security space should be careful about what they share online. Here are 8 specific tips from Special Agent Palmer on how to prevent yourself from being a victim:
- Permanently close old, unused accounts.
- Enable two-factor authentication on any platform that allows it.
- Use strong passwords, and use different passwords for every account.
- On social media, accept friend requests selectively.
- Configure the strongest privacy settings for each social media account.
- Think before you post.
- Limit use of third-part applications on social media applications, read the license agreement, and be sure exactly what those applications want to be able to access.
- Change answers to security questions, and use false answers so that online criminals can’t use information they gather online to gain access to your accounts.
You might think you’d never be a victim. But if you have a security clearance, you’re already a target. Being safe online can help prevent you from being the center of someone else’s scam.