U.S. Embassy Kabul frequently receives inquiries from people who have been victimized by Internet scammers. These scams are attempts by con artists to convince you to send them money by developing a friendship, romance or business partnership online, and then exploiting that relationship to ask for money.
The most common scam we see involves calls, texts, or social media messages (Facebook, WhatsApp, Viber, Kik, dating apps, etc) from a person claiming be a U.S. citizen stationed in Afghanistan as a member of the U.S. Armed Forces, a military contractor, a U.S. Embassy diplomat, or an employee of an international aid organization.
These con artists are very convincing and troll the Internet for potential victims, spending weeks or months to build a relationship. To back up their fake stories, they often steal real soldiers’ or models’ photos and names gleaned from internet web sites. Once they have gained their victim’s trust, the scammers create a false situation and ask for money. Scammers can be very clever and deceptive, creating sad and believable stories that will make you want to send them money. After the person receives the money, they disappear and do not respond to messages.
Before you send funds, check to see if you recognize any of the following “red flags” as warning signs, and realize that you may be a potential victim of a scam:
- You have never met your friend / boyfriend / girlfriend / fiancé / business partner in person; all your communication has been strictly online.
- The person claims they have suffered a serious injury in Afghanistan and needs assistance to return to the United States, or claims they need money to travel home to visit a sick relative. These are all lies. The U.S. government and military have systems in place to evacuate service members, diplomats, and contractors who are injured or need to visit families in the United States for emergencies.
- The person claims they are a U.S. soldier who wants to visit you during their “R&R” vacation, but need you to send money or a credit card so they can buy plane tickets. Again, these are all lies. The U.S. military has systems in place for service members to travel on leave.
- The person claims they need your help to pay an Afghan “exit fee,” or claim they need the U.S. Embassy to issue them an “exit letter” to take leave. Military personnel do not need Embassy permission to take leave, and Afghanistan does not charge exit fees to leave the country.
- The person claims they contacted the U.S. Embassy but were refused help. The protection of U.S. citizens abroad is the top priority of U.S. Embassies and Consulates worldwide.
- The person claims they are being detained at the U.S. Embassy pending payment of some type of fee or passport problem. U.S. embassies do not detain people.
- The person claims they are a U.S. military service member or diplomat, and offers you millions of dollars if you help them move money or gold out of Afghanistan. This is a twist on the old “Nigerian Prince” scam.
- The person’s luck is incredibly bad – he or she has been in a car crash, arrested, mugged, beaten, hospitalized, etc. They claim their family members are dead or unable to assist.
- The person has many excuses why they cannot directly call the U.S. Embassy for help, yet they are somehow able to communicate with you alone.
- The person sends you a scanned copy of their U.S. passport as “proof” they are a U.S. citizen, but the passport contains spelling errors, inconsistent fonts, and a “Photoshopped” image that does not meet U.S. passport photo standards.
- The person claims to have been born and raised in the United States, but uses poor grammar and spelling indicative of a non-native English speaker.
- The person claims to be in Afghanistan, but asks you to send money to an account in a third country, such as Nigeria.
- You sent money to the scammer for visas or plane tickets, but they always have a new excuse why they cannot travel, often citing detention by military or immigration officials.
- Specific scams targeting Afghans:
- The scammer claims they represent a well-known American company and promises you a job and U.S. work permit, but only if you pay a fee for visas or other services.
- The scammer claims they are an attractive American citizen who wants to marry you, if you send them money for a U.S. visa or “green card”.
- The scammer claims they are a U.S. consular officer and says you have won the Diversity Visa Lottery, or a job and work permit. U.S. diplomats do not “cold call” people with offers of visas or jobs. For more information about DV Lottery scams, click here.
The U.S. Embassy strongly cautions against sending money to persons whom you have not met personally prior to their purported travel to Afghanistan.
If you believe you are the victim of an Internet scam:
- DO NOT SEND MONEY. Unfortunately, any money that you may have already sent is probably not recoverable.
- END ALL COMMUNICATION WITH THE SCAMMER IMMEDIATELY. Do not attempt to resolve the situation with the scammer. If you feel threatened, contact your local police at once. Do not attempt to personally recover the funds lost.
- REPORT THE SCAM IMMEDIATELY. File a complaint with the Internet Crime Complaint Center — a partnership among the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), the National White Collar Crime Center (NW3C), and the Bureau of Justice Assistance (BIA) — at ic3.gov. Also file a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission. For more information on international financial scams, please visit http://travel.state.gov/content/passports/english/emergencies/scams.html.
- REPORT THE WEBSITE. If the scam originated through a particular website or social media platform, notify the administrators of that website or platform.
For actual emergencies involving a U.S. citizen who has been injured, hospitalized, detained or arrested, please contact the U.S. Embassy American Citizen Services section for assistance.
Due to U.S. Privacy Laws, we cannot verify the identity of U.S. citizens.