Romance Scammers Are Exploiting Images of US Personnel: How to Protect Yourself

Romance Scammers Are Exploiting Images of US Personnel: How to Protect Yourself
Image Source: Pexels/Tero Vesalainen

The frustration among American servicemen is mounting as scammers continue to steal their pictures to run romance scams. According to an ABC11 report, despite servicemen lodging complaints about their stolen images, scammers persist in exploiting unsuspecting women for financial gain. These romance scams have emerged as one of the most detrimental forms of impersonation scams in the United States, resulting in losses amounting to billions of dollars.


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According to Honza Cafourek, a flight chief in the Air Force, romance scams involving his stolen images have been ongoing, resulting in one to three women falling victim to such scams every week. In an interview with ABC11, he recounted being frequently contacted by women who believe they have developed a romantic connection with him.

As the scammers cease communication after extracting all they can, the deceived women eventually reach out to Cafourek, realizing they have not been conversing with him. Cafourek estimated that women have collectively lost $180,000 to scammers using his pictures.

Cafourek shared pictures of the impersonating accounts with ABC11’s Troubleshooter Diane Wilson, saying, "They will create another one and another one and another one. It's a constant battle."

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Last year, a Texas man was sentenced to over three years in prison for his role in an online US military romance scam. The man stole identities and images of real US military generals to scam victims from across the nation. According to, these victims lost over $1.5 million in total.

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The scammer, Fola Alabi, 52, was also sentenced to three years of probation, ordered to pay full restitution and forfeit his home valued at $560,000.

According to data from the Federal Trade Commission, about 64,003 reports of romance scams were received in 2023. Furthermore, the reported losses to romance scams totaled a whopping $1.14 billion, with median losses per person of $2,000. This marked the highest reported loss for an imposter scam, suggesting how efficient scammers are in forging false relationships with unsuspecting victims to steal money.


Here are some indicators that someone claiming to be a service member on a dating app or any other platform may be running a scam:

Requesting Money: If they claim they can't access their bank account and urgently need money, it's often a tactic to steal money from unsuspecting individuals.

Requesting Assistance with Money Transfer: Another tactic involves asking for help to transfer money back into the U.S. Typically, genuine U.S. service personnel do not require such favors.

False Calls from Commanding Officers: If someone claiming to be a commanding officer calls and demands money on behalf of the personnel, it's a complete scam. Commanding officers would never contact civilians for financial assistance or gift cards.

Seeking Money for Leave: Claims of needing money to go on leave are untrue, as the U.S. military covers all costs for soldiers returning home.

Refusal to Video Chat: Claiming the inability to video chat for security reasons is a common tactic used by imposters to conceal their true identity. Additionally, be wary if they claim to be stationed far away or have been stationed for an unusually long period, such as over two years.

Scammers may also quickly profess love or propose, and they often share images of fake military badges or IDs. These red flags can help individuals identify and avoid falling victim to romance scams perpetrated by imposters posing as service members.


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