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In honor of my Caught Dead in Wyoming mystery series, my assistant Kay Coyte is writing for my newsletter and blog a series of consumer tips inspired by TV reporter Elizabeth Danniher.


This Consumer Tip topic comes from Patricia, who writes: “Lucky me — just followed by a general. Woot.”

(See the photo of the Facebook notification she received.)

She continues: “Oh, wait … How many generals are likely to follow me? How many are likely to have a Facebook page? Of them, how many would put a period after spelled out “General”? And how many would have multiple FB pages in his name?”

This notification is highly unlikely to have come from the real Jeffrey S. Buchanan, who retired from the U.S. Army in 2019 as a lieutenant general after serving as commander of the Army North (Fifth Army). In 2017, he led all military efforts in Puerto Rico after the devastating hurricane there. A well-decorated military career.

But on Facebook, at least 25 profiles claim to be Buchanan – and most have been created in the past two months. Some are more elaborate than others, but many seem to be looking for love and likely all are a first step in a military romance scam.

My September 2019 column reported on the work of Rep. Adam Kinzinger, R-Ill., who’s also a pilot in the Air National Guard, to get Facebook and other social media outlets to report fake profiles using service members’ photos and information as romance bait. They didn’t exactly snap to attention and, sadly, the problem still exists.

A social media site for people who support British and U.S. service members, Forces Penpals, knows a thing or two about relationships with military men and women, as friends or more. They covered this topic as recently as May, in an article titled “Real soldier or online scammer – here’s how to tell the difference.” Some tips were specific to the British military (Forces Penpals is UK-based), but here are two new ones:

The scammer who claims he can’t Facetime you because it’s a security risk? Actually, that’s not true. Even soldiers in a war zone are encouraged to stay in video touch with family and friends.

Another: Follow the money. “No military man or woman will ever need you to pay for food or housing,” the article states, “so if those two topics ever come up, run away in the opposite direction. … A real soldier would never need you to bail him out or fund any part of his life while he’s in service.”

For examples of scammers in action, read the article’s comments; some are as recent as August. Beware of any officer asking you to keep their “portfolio” safe!