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Caution: same old scams making the rounds again

JBLM Garrison Public Affairs Officer

Published: 02:11PM May 3rd, 2018
170119-F-IW100-001

25th Air Force Public Affairs

A catfish is a person who pretends to be someone they’re not, using social media to create a false identity with the intent of scamming someone, or worse.

They’re back.

Classified ads, allegedly posted by service members on Craigslist, Facebook, Franklin Sell It! and other websites, are again making the rounds. These ads are enticing because they’re selling great products for low prices that seem almost — because they are — too good to be true.

As you read the latest scam ad, look for the red flags:

“2014 Food Concession Trailer for sale in perfect condition: no need for repairs. The interior and exterior is in very good condition. This trailer is top of the line: fully equipped; weighs 6,000 lbs. I bought it when I was serving in Lewis McChord, U.S. Joint Base, WA. The trailer will be delivered from Lewis McChord, WA. I will take care of the shipping.

I have a low price ($5,000) because I want to sell it before July 10. The reason for selling is that I am in US Army and my unit will be sent back overseas, and I don’t want it to get old in a storage for 18 months. Just let me know if you are interested and where are you located.

P.S. Please contact me only if you have cash in hand. This is a fast sale! Thanks! Staff Sgt. Sharon Jacobs, 128th Mobile Public Affairs Detachment, Lewis McChord, U.S. Joint Base, WA”

Let’s look at the red flags.

1. “Lewis McChord, U.S. Joint Base, WA.” Wrong.

2. “I will take care of the shipping.” No one is going to ship a 6,000-pound trailer for free.

3. “I have a low price ($5,000).” The price alone is too-good-to-be-true.

4. “Storage for 18 months.” Service members and units do not deploy for 18 months.

5. “128th Mobile Public Affairs Detachment.” There’s no such unit at JBLM.

Over the last two weeks, we’ve taken calls and social media questions from at least 20 private citizens and law enforcement asking if a “Staff Sgt. Sharon Jacobs” works at JBLM and if this ad is legitimate. Of course, it’s not and we said so. We don’t know if any people were fooled and sent money.

How do we know this “posting” is a scam? That’s easy. We’ve seen it before. This latest iteration has made the rounds for the last eight years. Although the item for sale changes, the basic elements are always the same. Something is for sale at a price that’s too-good-to-be-true because a service member must deploy or move to a new assignment. And, of course, shipping is always free.

Unfortunately, it’s not the only service member-related scam that continues to make the rounds. We also took a call this week from someone who’d fallen for the old “Soldier stuck overseas scam.”

In this case, a woman called seeking advice on how to get her Soldier-fiance — who she’d never met — back from Syria because the Army deployed him two years ago and had not brought him back to the United States. The woman stated she was working with a person in Nigeria to get him home. She admitted she’d sent this person thousands of dollars, but her “Soldier” still hadn’t returned. She wanted to know what we could do to help.

Sadly we couldn’t help. Instead, we told her she’d been taken in by a long-standing scam. We advised her to stop sending money and to cease all contact. She asked how she could get her money back. We told her to report the incident to the authorities. Finally, we told her it’s unlikely she will get her money back.

Another variant of this scam involves a claim that a Soldier has been left overseas and needs medical care. One recent caller said he’d been contacted online by the Soldier’s unit, which then sent him an “official looking” form. This form asked him to provide the name of his bank and account routing number, so they could transfer money from his account to them to pay for the Soldier’s medical care. He didn’t fall for this.

Perhaps you’re thinking this couldn’t happen to me. This is such an obvious trick. I’d never fall for it. Maybe you’re right, but then again, the one that tricks you might be more sophisticated. It will capture your attention by selling something you really want or must have. The price will be great, the sale will appear credible, and the seller — a service member — trustworthy.

The temptation will be to jump on this great deal before someone else does, and you’ll make the payment. Then you’ll wait for a delivery that will never arrive.

Don’t let this happen to you. Be skeptical. If the deal seems too good to be true, it probably is. Make sure to verify it with a trustworthy source before you commit.