Maj. Chris Haggard, a fire support officer at Fort Sill, Okla., picked up his office phone to an earful of cussing and yelling from a woman who said he had seduced her online and scammed her.
But Haggard had never heard of the woman. His photos and personal information have been stolen and used over and over again by con men in Africa to suck in lonely-hearted women on dating sites and swindle them out of their money.
“She was very upset and she accused me of scamming her, and I finally got her calmed down and told her it wasn’t me, and it’s been going on for at least a year and a half, and she wasn’t the first one,” he said.
This week’s Army Times discusses these scams with a few broken-hearted victims and what the Army’s doing about it. Thanks to blogger Master Sgt. C.J. Grisham of “A Soldier’s Perspective” for the introduction to Haggard, but we were unable secure him for the article *cough-public affairs-too-slow-cough*. We finally got to chat with him.
Haggard took to his Facebook page Monday to fight back, posting information about how the scam works and what victims duped by their ignorance of the Army need to know.
“The scammers use a family emergency as a vehicle to garner sympathy or their location is so bad–and I’m sure there are places in Afghanistan like that–that they don’t have access to money, and the civilians don’t know the Army has systems in place to take care of situations like this,” he said.
Since Fort Drum, N.Y., Criminal Investigations Command contacted Haggard in 2009 about the misuse of his image, he’s seen a number of photos of himself online, mostly from his OIF tour in 2007 and all lifted from his wife’s Facebook and MySpace pages:
Haggard at a restaurant in ACU’s and a cowboy hat, posing with an Iraqi counterpart in East Baghdad, flying in a Blackhawk with his 10th Mountain patch visible. (That’s how CID found him to tell him his photos were being misused.)
“CID told me they weren’t able to do anything about it, and that the FBI weren’t able to do anything about it either because they (the scammers) were in Africa,” he said.
Haggard now has credit monitoring, and he’s “sanitized” his Facebook profile of some personal details, but it sounds like a big headache.
He, his wife, brother and even one of his nieces have gotten phone calls from women claiming to have been in romantic online relationships with Haggard or, if they’ve already figured it out, someone posing as him.
“Personally, I haven’t had any repercussions but it does have the possibility of harming my reputation and I did get that one aggravated phone call that I want to avoid in the future,” he said.
“Someone’s using my name and my image in a criminal enterprise and that has the possibility of impacting my personal life and my career.”