PHOENIX - Military romance scams—a new low for scammers pretending to be soldiers abroad to romance their way into your heart and bank account. A Valley woman was able to catch the online dating scam before it went further, and now she's sharing her story to help others.
Kristen, who is admittedly too humiliated to show her face on camera or use last name, says she met a guy who calls himself Stephen Jones on the dating site Plenty of Fish.
"He said he was in Afghanistan, and he was an NCO staff sergeant, like he knew all this information,” Kristen said.
A Phoenix soldier out on deployment until April--at least that's what he said when the two started exchanging text messages.
"It was definitely blooming into something, and feelings were there,” Kristen said.
When she learned his last name, she did some searching--not something out of the ordinary at all.
"When I did a reverse image search, it came up that he was on all of these scam alerts,” Kristen said.
Not only did Kristen learn Jones was not who he claimed to be, but she saw she was far from the first to start a relationship who was pretending to be something they were not.
"Websites started popping up and articles about this military romance scam and how there's these groups of people in western Africa that this is like their full-time job. They put up these fake profiles and lure women in,” Kristen said.
The U.S. Army's Criminal Investigation Command website even has a warning on these military romance scams.
ABC15 talked with Arizona Attorney General Mark Brnovich about online dating scams and Kristen’s story.
He wasn't surprised and offered up a few warning signs.
"Does this person seem legitimate? Are they trying to isolate you from your family and friends? Are they trying to borrow money from you? Are they trying to get financial information from you? Those are the kinds of things that are huge red flags that should warn you that you should find out more information about this person,” Brnovich said.
As for Kristen, her curiosity saved her. She admits that she misses the man she thought she was falling for.
But if her story and her warning help you, that's a win for Kristen.