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 online, and then exploiting that relationship to ask for money.
The most common scam we see involves calls, texts, or social media messages from a person who claims to be a U.S. citizen stationed in Afghanistan. The scammers typically claim to be a member of the U.S. Armed Forces, a military contractor, a U.S. Embassy diplomat or staff member, 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. 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” or “fiancé” 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 an ill relative in the United States. These are all lies. The U.S. government and military have systems in place to evacuate service members, direct-hire employees, 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 and needs you to send money so they can go on an “R&R” trip to visit you. The U.S. military has systems in place for military service members to travel on leave.
- The person claims they are a U.S. military service member or U.S. diplomat and offers you millions of dollars if you help them move money 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, or hospitalized. They also claim their family members are dead or unable to assist.
- 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 be contacting you from a U.S. Embassy, claiming they have been detained pending payment of some type of fee. U.S. embassies do not detain people.
- 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.
- The scammer claims they are a U.S. consular officer and claims you have won the U.S. Diversity Visa Lottery, or makes grand promises of a U.S. job and work permit if you send them money for visas. Again, these are all lies. U.S. diplomats and consular officers do not “cold call” people with offers of visas or jobs. For more information on DV Lottery-specific scams, see https://travel.state.gov/content/travel/en/us-visas/visa-information-resources/fraud.html.
- 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.
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.
If someone you know has traveled to Afghanistan and has been seriously injured, hospitalized, arrested, or facing other emergency situation, please contact the U.S. Embassy American Citizen Services section for assistance.
Due to U.S. Privacy Laws, we are unable to verify the identity of a U.S. citizen or service member.