GREENSBORO, N.C. -- U.S. Army officials say a military scam is victimizing thousands of women looking for love.
Christine Golding was one of them.
In December, she became friends with a man claiming to be a soldier in Afghanistan. Everything from his profile picture to the photos he sent her seemed legitimate.
Within three weeks of them communicating online, things got serious.
“We discussed plans for the future,” 39-year-old Golding said. “We discussed our dreams.”
They communicated every day mainly through Yahoo messenger.
Golding never spoke or Skyped with her soldier because he said his commanders wouldn’t let him.
“I’m thinking okay, he’s in a combat zone maybe this is OK,” she said.
But red flags started popping up after her new love took down his profile picture and starting asking if she owned a car or a house. He also asked if she had a bank account.
Her suspicions led her to a local army recruiter’s office in January where she learned the truth.
“I tell them ‘What’s going on?’ and they said ‘We’re sorry. You have been scammed.’”
“I am very hurt,” she said. “I am very angry.”
Soon after Christine found out, the scam unraveled. Her soldier started asking for money. He asked her for $800 to help pay for heart surgery for his son who he said had cancer.
It’s a scam military officials say has claimed thousands of unsuspecting victims.
“I’ve talked to women who have taken out second mortgages; the most of I’ve heard was $78,000,” said Christopher Grey, chief of public affairs for U.S. Army Criminal Investigation Commands.
Grey says most of the scams are being done by criminals in other countries.
They take a real soldier’s picture and name and create an online identity.
“The soldier is real,” he said. “They just have no idea that their idea is being used by someone.”
“Once they hook someone, the scam evolves and they start asking for medical benefits, leave papers to pay for,” Grey said.
Officials say signs to look out for are if the person tells you they can’t Skype or use the phone.
Grey says to also make sure they’re writing from military addresses.
It is advice Christine wishes she would have gotten weeks before.
“I’m having a really hard time trusting people,” she said. “I want to find love, but how do I know somebody’s not going to try to hurt me? How do I know that?”