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Retired Veteran's Photo Used in Online Dating Scam

Multiple fake social media profiles were used to con women

spinner image The Perfect Scam - Episode 41: Stolen Valor, Stolen Hearts: Military Romance Scams

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spinner image In the military, I spent 26 years safeguarding human life. To know that my images are being used to hurt people in romance scams, that really cuts across the grain with me.
Full Transcript

[00:00:00] Will: Coming up on AARP - The Perfect Scam.

[00:00:02] Brian Denny: Well I don't think anybody ever expected a lot in retirement. I don't think anybody ever thinks that wow, this is going to happen and they're going to get caught up in a scam where people are, are basically trying to use your identity to take advantage of people. Never in a million years, uh, did I think that would happen.

[00:00:17] I'm most surprised by the cruelty of, of humans to other humans, um, to be able to do this to somebody.

[00:00:24] Will: All right, welcome back to AARP - The Perfect Scam. I am your host, Will Johnson, and I'm here in the studio with AARP's Fraud Watch Network Ambassador, Frank Abagnale. Frank?

[00:00:33] Frank Abagnale: Good to be with you, Will. Thanks.

[00:00:34] Will: All right, Frank, we are talking this week about a scam that involves identity theft is really what it is, and social media, and in particular targeting people who are in the military. In general, the image of the military man or woman in the uniform is often used by scammers, right?

[00:00:53] Frank Abagnale: Absolutely. And as I remind people all the time about social media, I'm not on social media, but I remind people the three things to remember about being on social media is one, you never want to tell someone where you were born; two, you never want to tell someone your date of birth; and third, you do not want to post a picture on social media of a picture that I would say would be a driver’s license, passport, graduation type photo.

[00:01:18] Will: All right, well let's get into today's story. We'll talk a lot more about social media and advice and tips you can pass along. This week we're going to tell you the story of a stolen identity, and the astonishing ripple effect it had on the lives of countless scam victims.


[00:01:31] Will: Our story starts with Sharon. She's single, retired, and spending some time connecting with people online. She meets a handsome man in the military. He's overseas and they're unable to meet in person, but Sharon realizes he's more than just a passing interest or an online connection. Overtime, he expresses the same feelings for Sharon and the relationship blossoms. It's not long before there's talk of marriage, a house, a new life together. Sharon doesn't tell a lot of people about her new love interest, but she does tell one of her friends and the daughter of her friend. Her name is Kathy. Sharon tells Kathy all about this new love interest, her future husband. His name is Ross Newton. She's clearly excited, looking forward to a future together with a new love. It really just feels right. He's kind and responsive, a family man with a son and full of ideas for himself and her and their new life.

[00:02:19] Kathy: She told me a story how she met a military man and um, he was, been deployed, and so he was going to be coming back home around the holidays. He had bought her an engagement ring but wasn't going to bring it until he saw her in California.

[00:02:35] Will: Kathy works fulltime and has twin 13-year-old girls. She's a busy woman. But when Sharon tells her about the man she had met online, Kathy's eager to know more about him.

[00:02:43] Kathy: He um, was getting ready to retire. He had a son, um, she was ready to be a stepmom, and um, wanting to buy a house here in um, in Clovis, California. And so um, she had even put half a down payment on a house.

[00:02:59] Will: Sharon's not just having an online relationship. She's making real plans with him. Kathy is pleased to know that one of her mom's friends has found love, and she decides to learn more about him.

[00:03:09] Kathy: And I found his account on her Facebook account, so I looked it up and I saw that the gentleman was in a uniform, but the, on the name badge it looked like it said Lenny or Denny, which was not the name she gave me. She gave me the name of Ross Newton.

[00:03:24] Will: Kathy's not sure what to do. She doesn't want to be meddling in Sharon's love life, but she just can't shake whatever the feeling is that she has. She starts to wonder more about the man in the profile photo, Ross Newton. She wonders who he really is, why can't he meet up in person, and why does his name say Denny on his shirt? She feels like she needs to do something. She decides to start with that name, Denny.

[00:03:46] Kathy: I didn't mention anything to her. I just kind of looked it up myself, uh before, because I didn't want to be wrong and lead her down a wrong path. So um, you know I, I looked at it and I looked up "army man Denny," and Brian's picture came, LinkedIn picture came up.

[00:04:01] Will: So she finds the same picture on LinkedIn, but it's not Ross Newton. This man is Brian Denny, that's the name on the man's shirt. Maybe it's the fact that money's involved, maybe it's the fact that Sharon's never met Ross in person but he's already bought an engagement ring. All of it starts to cast a shadow over Sharon's story. Kathy decides she has to keep digging, and she sends Brian Denny a message on LinkedIn and eagerly waits to hear back.


[00:04:30] Will: Brian Denny has spent his career in the military; 25 years serving his country all over the world.

[00:04:35] Brian Denny: A lot of time in Germany, a lot of time in the Middle East, and everywhere in the states from Fort Stewart, Georgia, to Fort Lewis, Washington.

[00:04:41] Will: Finally, after almost three decades in the military, a life on the road away from home and family and friends, he's back looking forward to the next phase of his life. He's home with his family for the first time in a long time and looking at various options thinking about how he can transition back to civilian life and keep giving back. Service is engrained in everything he does. So in June 2016, he's doing what a lot of us would do. He starts looking on LinkedIn, looking for opportunities and making connections.

[00:05:10] Brian Denny: I'd been working LinkedIn to update my profile, looking for a job and this kind of thing, and I got a note from a lady going, "Hey I, I think you and I have been talking on another site, and I think you're coming to visit me," and I'm like, you know, what? That's crazy.

[00:05:23] Will: This is all months before Kathy reaches out about Ross Newton and Sharon, but it's the beginning of a long saga that will overshadow Brian's life.

[00:05:31] Brian Denny: She said, "I'd really like to talk. Here's my number." And I'm like, "I don't really feel comfortable with that," and she says, "Well I'd like to talk to you about you know, this conversation I've been having with a guy that says he's you." And she sent me a picture of airline tickets, said he had sent her that said he was flying in to see her in, in Canada, uh, the next weekend. And I'm like, okay, I'm calling. And uh, and that's kind of how it started.

[00:05:55] Will: As you can tell, the message comes from out of the blue. Brian doesn't know anything about it or why this woman seems to think he's coming to see her. He keeps messaging with the woman who tells him to go on Facebook where she's found his image and name on more than just a few profiles.

[00:06:09] Brian Denny: Sure enough, using the same picture, my exact name that were uh really double digits in profiles that uh were using my pictures and, and, and had a variety of friends and contacts and it was all pretty, pretty chilling to, to see that kind of stuff.

[00:06:27] Will: These were all accounts that Brian did not set up; accounts he knew nothing about. But there he is smiling for the camera and with a pit in his stomach, Brian digs further into the profiles and discovers entire fake timelines with images of not just himself.

[00:06:41] Brian Denny: One of the favorite pictures is of me and my son, and he's in a Boy Scout uniform and uh we're on the front porch of our house, or me and my son, you know, hanging out on the farm with horses.

[00:06:53] Will: That first LinkedIn message was the first of hundreds and maybe thousands that Brian would eventually reply to on Facebook, LinkedIn, and a host of dating sites, and they're all coming from women, mostly women who claim to have some type of online relationship with him. Women who had given money and gifts and romantic intentions, not to Brian, but scammers. Scammers who were using Brian's image and name to create fake accounts and lure victims.

[00:07:18] Brian Denny: You can weave a pretty good story about, you know, here's a guy in a uniform, and now he's deployed overseas and his son's a good kid, a Boy Scout, and they've got horses and now he was injured in a horse-riding acer--, accident while he was in boarding school, and he needs money, and oh, I can't help him because I'm deployed on a humanitarian mission and if someone could help him, I would really appreciate it, and you know, people, people want to help a soldier out that's deployed and they kind of buy into that.

[00:07:44] Will: Brian does what he can to control the damage, to let hopeful suitors know that it's a scam, that it's not his account, and he's not looking for money or love or anything.

[00:07:53] Brian Denny: I break up with someone in kind of in a weird kind of way once a week. I'm the guy who, I'm the bearer of bad news who says, yeah, you've been scammed.

[00:08:01] Will: Brian's life becomes a nightmare, and while he learned how to respond to people and try to convince them it's not him, that it's a scam, it takes a toll. And even trying to help clear that air with victims takes on its own challenges.

[00:08:13] Brian Denny: Yeah, it's a fulltime job. You know, you try to be a little comforting, but you know, that just kind of invites more contact, so it's really a double-edged sword in terms of how much you, you respond to folks.

[00:08:25] Will: And ultimately, it's not just Brian who's impacted by the scams.

[00:08:28] Brian Denny: Yeah, it's been tough. My folks don't, didn't quite understand why that they were uh, why they were getting calls, but it's been something I've had to explain to my family a couple times that, you know, this is, this is a real thing, uh, and it's really happening.

[00:08:41] Will: Brian's learning that identity theft can invade every part of your life in ways that you can't imagine.

[00:08:47] Brian Denny: Yeah, you don't know what you've lost really. I mean ultimately in the end of the day, it's uh, for me it started out as about 12 pictures; now it's probably about 50 pictures uh that get used and, and circulated around, but you don't know what you've lost in terms of control of your, your, you know, your accounts and uh, your banking information, credit card information, and just what else has been given up. But you know, end of the day, it's uh, it's a lot of pictures for me.

[00:09:13] Will: You, you weren't necessarily the victim of, of banking scams or, or uh, or a financial scam, but correct me if I'm wrong, but you certainly lost, I mean just this idea of your, your image being out there is enough to freak, freak anyone out.

[00:09:29] Brian Denny: Yeah, that, that's it. I mean I, I financially uh, I'm, I didn't lost anything, uh, but the fact that my image has been used to take advantage of people and to hurt people, uh, images of my family, um, lots of phone calls, uh, to my folks, uh people trying to track me down, lots of messages every day, you know people trying to say this is what happened and you know, do you know this is going on?

[00:09:56] Will: And for Brian, it's not just the impact on his life. The countless messages and conversations with strangers who've lost money and are heartbroken, it's all wearing on him.

[00:10:05] Brian Denny: And, and again, just to know that your images or whatnot are being used to hurt people, um, that really cuts a--, across the grain with me. I spent 26 years, you know, wanting to defend people, uh and safeguard uh human life, and now, you know, your, your images are being used for purposes uh, like this, and you are completely alone. And, you know, it's feel, you feel like you're like knock--, trying to knock down windmills uh against giants like against Facebook and uh and Instagram there, and Google and there's little, and there's little response from them in terms of, you know, how to fix things.

[00:10:43] Will: So back to Kathy. She reaches out to Brian on LinkedIn hoping to untangle whatever's going on with her mom's friend, Sharon, and the man that she knows as Ross Newton.

[00:10:52] Brian Denny: She wrote me, she wrote me and said, hey, you know, a friend of her mom's has been scammed. She just wanted to confirm that I was a real guy and that uh I'd never had contact with her mom's friend.

[00:11:03] Kathy: And Brian wrote me back saying, "I am aware it's been happening for about the past six months," and so um, he said, "Yeah, there are, you know it's not just under my name, it's under different names." I said, "Well this guy's under Ross Newton." He said, "Yeah, look up Mike Denny, Steve Denny." So I did, and I found numerous accounts of, with Brian's picture. It was phenomenal.

[00:11:24] Will: Eventually, Kathy decides she has to let Sharon know that her future husband, her dream of a new life, a new home, a new family, it's all a scam.

[00:11:32] Kathy: So I collected about seven or eight accounts, uh, with Brian's picture, and I sent them to her on uh Facebook messenger, and I let her know this is what's going on, obviously there's a bunch of different accounts that they're using. I don't know if it's the same person or not. At that time we had no idea. Um, so she was pretty shocked and of course upset. You know they're, that's her whole life is now considered a lie, that, that everything's been told to her and she's going to move and she's going to be a stepmom and you know, it's just so, it's very hard for her to um, all take in, and of course, you know when she confronts the scammer, the scammer will say things like, you know, oh, no, no, no, he stole my photos, you know, I'm the real guy and um, but she finally came to the conclusion that it was a scam and um, has slowly gotten over it over the past couple of years.

[00:12:20] Will: And how much money had, had she sent to him?

[00:12:22] Kathy: Um, she sent about thir--, between 32 and 35,000 dollars total.

[00:12:28] Will: Okay. Money that he was saying he needed for one thing or another overseas, I'm guessing.

[00:12:31] Kathy: Yes, yes, sent money for airline tickets, sent the half a payment for the house, sent money for um, his son that needed it for school, yeah.

[00:12:40] Will: At this point, Kathy's digging into just Facebook, none of the other possible sites where Brian's profile could exist.

[00:12:47] Kathy: That was the first place we started looking. I never thought to really look anywhere else, 'cause I really didn't know um, how big this was.

[00:12:54] Will: Brian Denny's clearly not alone when it comes to scams like this one. Christopher Gray is Director of Public Affairs for US Army Criminal Investigation Command based in Quantico, Virginia. Over the past five to six years his office has dedicated hundreds of hours to the issue, talking to thousands of victims who have been targeted by scammers using similar techniques. He says most of the victims are women, between 40 and 80 years old.

[00:13:17] Christopher Gray: The US um, military is used in this scams worldwide, not only in the United States. I've, I've dealt with uh victims in Australia, Japan, uh Canada, Great Britain, um, they, they're seen as someone who's respected. Um, they have a steady income, a steady paycheck. They're honorable. Um, most of the times during the, in good shape, that type of thing, so and a lot of people are patriotic and, and the criminals know that, so they play on their patriotism, um, and, and people want to be involved with the military, especially nowadays and, and help them out as much as they can, so, so they, they become uh, victims of the scam. The, the, the, the suspects come up with all type of scenarios, and they start out, routinely they start out very small; I need $100 or I need um, you know, $50 for a telephone so I'll be able to talk to you and we'll be able to stay in touch better. Um, I don't have a computer, can you send me money for a laptop computer? Once they find a victim, and they're actually hooked, then they'll start, the, the, the larger scams where hey, I'm in love with you, let's get married, um, I'm coming home, uh oops, I was in an automobile accident in, in Syria or wherever, um, the military's not taking care of me. I'm in the hospital, um, and the, and the scenarios just continue and continue to change until they drain the, the victim of all their money. And, and it's just incredible of how many scams they will come up with for one individual, and that person will continually give the money.

[00:14:48] Will: Scams have become a big concern for the military. He's seen firsthand the devastating impact it can have on victims.

[00:14:54] Christopher Gray: I've talked to a woman who got a second mortgage on her home and lost $75,000. I talked to a woman one day at $425,000 she'd lost to someone she'd never actually met or talked to even Skyped or video chat. She just talked to on the phone. $425,000 and I went down to, to uh talk to a couple of the agents about it, and I, I was, it was just incredibly surprised that she'd lost that much money and had been scammed that, that, that badly, and uh, one of the agents told me, I got, I got a case I'm working on right now, $450,000. Um, and it, and it seemed at the time the victims didn't really care about the money, they wanted to find that person. They were so much emotionally attached and so much in love with this, with this concept is what it is, um, that they, they just wanted to find out if this soldier was real or, or were they really being scammed. They, they really, the money was a, was a second afterthought for them.

[00:15:53] Will: Digging into Brian's profile, Kathy is also finding out how big the problem is, but it will take weeks and months to reveal the true extent of the scam.

[00:16:01] Kathy: Yeah, so I started looking into it a little bit more, and um, I messaged Brian again and told him, you know, "I can't believe this, I'm finding all of these different accounts," and um, so I didn't start documenting at that time. Uh, we just kind of looked for them. If I couldn't get them removed on Facebook after I reported them, um, I would send them to Brian to get removed. We didn't have much uh progress with that, probably about a 50/50 when Brian tried to turn them in. I had about a 30% um, a 30% success rate of getting them removed.

[00:16:32] Will: It's like Whack-a-Mole at this point. One profile goes up, they get it removed, and another one goes up. And as she's doing all this work, Kathy starts to come across other faces, other names with multiple profiles and accounts.

[00:16:44] Kathy: By then I had seen many of the same faces on Facebook that are being used for scams. A lot of different military personnel and doctors and so I knew it was a lot larger than what we thought.

[00:16:58] Will: But Kathy's not satisfied with her progress. She's got an inkling of how big this problem is now, and she wants to find out who's behind it.

[00:17:04] Kathy: Brian and I weren't sure at the beginning if it was just maybe one person that had his picture, or if it was um, you know, really like almost a town full.

[00:17:13] Will: After work, weekends, whenever she finds the time, Kathy investigates. She researches and she starts to understand more and more about how the scams work.

[00:17:21] Kathy: What they do is they'll post a couple of pictures um, say of Brian, and they get a couple of um, victims, if not two or three hundred, and you know interested, and 'cause they'll, they'll approach the women. The women don't usually come and approach them. So they'll approach them. These women will see the pictures, they'll start talking in Facebook messenger, and then they'll move them over to a whole 'nother chat. By then, a lot of times the scammers will delete the account, so sometimes they leave it up, sometimes they don't.

[00:17:52] Will: Kathy gets so deep into the research and the scams that she starts to learn about the criminals behind them. She starts untangling the flow of money, where it comes from and where it's going.

[00:18:01] Kathy: It's never usually just one scammer working this. They usually have other people working with them, and that, you know, either people in their own country. Um, they also use like third party or mules is what they call them, which are the money laundering, um, to help move the money. The third party people, a lot of them are victims themselves. And they just think that they're trying to move the money for their, the man they love, or the scammer, um, as a favor to, to them.

[00:18:29] Will: I gotcha.

[00:18:30] Kathy: Sometimes they'll give some story, you know, that that family member needs to send money, can they please put it in their account, into the victim's account to move it? So there's a lot of different scenarios that can, that can go into that.

[00:18:41] Will: Kathy spends a lot of time talking and working with Brian. She learns a lot about the impact it's had on his life.

[00:18:47] Kathy: People think about, you know, they only think about oh, his pictures, you know, are stolen and being used. It's a lot more than that. Um, not only is his own photo in there, but um, his wife, his son, um, they, they always say the wife died, um, rarely they're divorced, but every once in a while, and then the pictures with him and his son they use as part of their story, uh, and, and at that time his son was a, was a minor and um, that affected him uh greatly, not to mention um, if these women find Brian online, on Facebook, and Brian did a lot of different things with the military, he's a part of a lot of different groups, so people post sometimes the different things that he's going to be doing in the area, and Brian has no idea if a scam victim is, you know, um, having a hard time maybe disconnecting and will show up someday where he's at. I mean it's just, there's a lot more to it than just a picture being stolen.

[00:19:43] Brian Denny: Well I don't think anybody ever, you know, expected a lot in retirement, um, you know, kind of how things would go, but I don't think anybody ever thinks that wow, this is going to happen and they're going to get caught up in a, a scam where people are, are, are, are basically trying to use your identity to take advantage of people. Never in a million years uh did I think that would happen.

[00:20:03] Will: But Brian finds a true ally in Kathy. She has her own theories on why photos of military servicemen and women are so appealing to someone looking for a romantic connection.

[00:20:13] Kathy: They feel like they owe them, you know, because the, the military men and women go out and they put their lives on the line for us, and there's nothing more than what American, good Americans want to do is help a soldier out, and that is a big part of this, and who, what soldier would lie to them? Who would be a scammer like that? Because they, they don't realize that it's some other person behind the pictures.

[00:20:35] Will: Kathy and Brian start keeping a record of everything, every account they close down, every new one that pops up, and eventually they decide it's time to take all of it to a Congressional Committee and take it to Facebook to report what they found.

[00:20:48] Brian Denny: I completely credit her for, you know, the, the meetings with Facebook, um, meetings on the Hill. Kathy's just been tremendous uh, in, in terms of uh, you know, getting this going and getting it the attention I think it, it ought to receive. So yeah, Kathy's been phenomenal.

[00:21:05] Will: They send an initial report to Facebook and then another, and then two more quarterly reports with extensive details of their investigation.

[00:21:12] Kathy: I made sure that every report that we did, we sent off to Mark Zuckerberg and Cheryl Sandberg. I had a signed, a return receipt back from their office, um, and then I also sent it to all of the Board of Directors as well as the team that we work with, um, in Facebook. Now I may get the signed receipts from them, but are they laying their eyes on it? I don't know.

[00:21:34] Will: But you are sitting down with some people from Facebook it sounds like, too. Maybe not Zuckerberg and Sandberg, but others.

[00:21:40] Kathy: Right.

[00:21:40] Will: They're hoping they can start to move the needle, just two people working with a multi-billion dollar social media company, but they do have their ear. The fight has given Kathy insight into a world she didn't know existed, and she's determined to keep fighting to expose the extent of these scams.

[00:21:55] Kathy: I realized how many people needed help, and how many I could educate, and so um, I just really took to it. I, I couldn't believe to hear the stories, um, women commit suicide, and men, commit suicide over stuff like this. Um, it was just, it was appalling to me, and so if I can provide as much ed--, education and as much advocacy that we can, and if Brian and I can get in there and change a law that can help prevent some of the scamming that's online, um, I, I couldn't think of a better thing to do. And Brian fought for his country for 26 years. He retired and fell into this right away, and so um, it's, it's a form of helping out the military too. Um, there's a lot of other victims out there, but um, to see their names, their children, their families, um, up there online trying to um, and, and used in vain, uh yeah, that's, that's why I stick with this.

[00:22:55] Will: In the meantime, you'll probably see social media CEOs making trips to Washington to answer questions, but for Brian, that's just spectacle.

[00:23:03] Brian Denny: It is, it is satisfying, uh, that they get called to talk about what is going--, what's going on, but again, there's a lot of talk and I, you know, the first time I saw that, I'm like, you know, I don't know that they're even aware uh, that, that this is a real thing, that this has happens to real people. Um, they're so far detached from the problem set. It's, it's, there's a level of indifference or uh, ignorance in terms of the magnitude of people that this affects on a daily basis.

[00:23:33] Will: Christopher Gray with US Army Criminal Investigation Command makes a good point about these scams. When they say they need money for one thing or the other, the stories don't mesh with the reality for most men and women in the military.

[00:23:44] Christopher Gray: The military is very well taken care of, the US military service people. Um, when they're overseas, even in a combat zone, they do have access um, maybe not every day, but they do have access to cyber cafes or, or uh the mail system. Um, they've always had mail since, for years they've, you know, the mail comes and goes, so when you're talking with someone and they say, "Hey, I'm on a top secret mission, I can't communicate with you, you can't send me a letter, um, you, I can't call you because I'm doing all this clandestine work," number one, uh, the mil--, military member would not be telling someone they're on a top secret mission or on a clandestine mission, and number two, there's a lot of support mechanisms already in place for the military, so those are just uh ways for the, the suspects to hide behind their scam. And the other thing is, you know, the, the military medical system is really good. If you're wounded in a combat zone, the military takes care of you, they fly you out of there, they put you in the hospital, I mean it's, it's taken care of. That's part of your main benefit as a service member. Um, so when you hear those type of things, and, and that, that a commander has seized my bank account and I can't, I can't, I can't get my assets from my bank, and I need money, those type of things, it's just not true.

[00:24:58] Will: And if you really want to make sure about someone, Christopher Gray has another good tip.

[00:25:02] Christopher Gray: If you're talking with someone who claims that they're in the military, they're overseas, etc., ask that person to send you an email. Every mem--, every military member across the United States has an email account. Every single person in the military. And that account ends with dot mil. M-i-l. Short for military. And nothing following that. It's ".mil" and if they can't do that, again, they're not in the military and they're scamming you.

[00:25:27] Will: One final note; Kathy and Brian have focused on Facebook and Instagram, but that doesn't mean they aren't trying to raise the issue with other social media and dating sites.

[00:25:34] Kathy: We have sent tons of letters out to the different platforms, and I've either gotten no response. Um, one, I think it was Zeus, wrote me back, very nice, um, said, you know, that they are working on this different program, and it was for military um, but we never got a meeting with them or anything like that.

[00:25:52] Will: For now, Brian and Kathy will continue to search for his image, shut down accounts, and reply to lovelorn victims until something changes.


[00:26:02] Will: So Frank, I mentioned in this episode that it's a little bit like playing Whack-a-Mole for, for Brian and Kathy who are fighting this problem for him, and Kathy's amazing; this woman coming in and helping him out and seeing this problem. She takes it on, but this, this idea of going to social media companies and reporting fake profiles, it's an uphill battle.

[00:26:23] Frank Abagnale: Absolutely. And I would challenge anyone that's listening today, to simply go to Twitter or Facebook and type in my name. It's Frank Abagnale. A-b (as in boy)-a-g-n-a-l-e. And you will find that there are thousands of people on there that use my name every single day. They're obviously not me, you can tell by the picture uh corresponding to the name, but they use my name. I've written Facebook, I've written Twitter and asked them to have those taken down; never got a response, they've never removed it, and there's just constantly more and more people using my, my name on there.

[00:26:56] Will: And you are not officially on Twitter.

[00:26:58] Frank Abagnale: I'm not on any social media.

[00:26:59] Will: You're not on social media.

[00:27:00] Frank Abagnale: Whatsoever.

[00:27:01] Will: That's not surprising.

[00:27:02] Frank Abagnale: Right.

[00:27:02] Will: And there's no other Frank Abagnales out there that you’re aware of?

[00:27:05] Frank Abagnale: The only body with the same last name, Abagnale, is, is related to me somehow, a cousin or someone like that, and there's certainly no Frank Abagnale that's out there. So they're just using my name, 'cause they popularized by the movie, and they use it but o--, obviously uh they say all kinds of things, they do all kinds of things on there, but it's not me.

[00:27:25] Will: You think there are ways that we can protect ourselves and still be on social media?

[00:27:28] Frank Abagnale: Yeah, I think we can, if we just choose to use it smart. You know, I have three sons and five grandchildren; they like social media. They're on Facebook. They enjoy doing that, but I have taught them as their father and their grandfather what things to put on social media, what things not to put on social media, uh, you know, not to display photographs of themselves like that, not to tell people where they were born and their date of birth, and to be a little private about their private information, that they have no reason to be dis--, discussing on Facebook or sharing with people on Facebook.

[00:27:58] Will: All right, Frank, thanks once again for talking about social media. It's one that comes up a lot on this show, but we do need to address it and continue to talk about it. We'll talk to you next week .

[00:28:07] Frank Abagnale: Thanks Will.

[00:28:07] Will: If you or someone you know has been the victim of a fraud or scam, don't hesitate to call AARP's Fraud Watch Network Helpline at 877-908-3360. Many thanks to our producers Julie Getz and Brook Ellis, also audio engineer Julio Gonzales, and of course, my cohost, Frank Abagnale. For AARP - The Perfect Scam, I'm Will Johnson.



After 26 years of service, U.S. Army Col. Bryan Denny retires from an incredible career in the military and begins to receive odd messages. They’re coming from women around the world who claim to be in online relationships with him. But Bryan isn’t on any dating sites. Meanwhile Kathy Waters is learning about the online boyfriend of her friend Sharon. They plan to marry, but Sharon has never met the man in person because he claims to be in the military stationed overseas. Sharon shows Kathy a picture of the man she knows as Ross, but the name on his uniform reads Bryan Denny. Unsure if her friend is in a real romance or caught up in romance scam, Kathy begins to investigate. She heads to Facebook, and what she finds is shocking. The same picture Kathy’s friend has fallen in love with is featured in multiple profiles across the internet under a wide variety of names. That’s when Kathy knows she needs to track down the real Bryan Denny.

After some digging, Kathy is able to locate him and reaches out to see if Bryan has any knowledge of what’s going on. Bryan has been fielding calls, emails and sometimes in-person visits from women who’ve fallen in love with his picture. Together, Bryan and Kathy uncover hundreds of fraudulent social media and dating site accounts that are using Bryan’s image, as well as images of his family members, to entice women into romance scams. Disgusted by what they’ve found, Kathy and Bryan decide to fight back against these scammers.

TIPS:  If you think you’ve been a victim of a scam or would like to report fraud call The Fraud Watch Network Helpline at 877-908-3360Anyone can become the victim of a scam, it’s important to be vigilant and know your vulnerabilities. For instance, if you are looking for a job you are more vulnerable to a work-at-home scam.

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The Perfect ScamSM is a project of the AARP Fraud Watch Network, which equips consumers like you with the knowledge to give you power over scams.


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