Internet Scams Warning
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, text messages, or social media messages from a person who claims to be a U.S. citizen in Afghanistan, typically claiming to be a member of the U.S. Armed Forces, a military contractor, 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 signs, and realize that you may be a potential victim of a scam:
- You only know your friend or fiancé online and have never met in person.
- 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. military and U.S. government 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’s luck is incredibly bad – he/she has been in a car crash, arrested, mugged, beaten, or hospitalized. They also state that their family members are dead or unable to assist.
- The person sends you a scanned copy of their U.S. passport that contains spelling errors, inconsistent fonts, with a photo that appears to be “Photo shopped” and does not meet U.S. passport photo standards.
- The scammer claims to be contacting you from a U.S. Embassy, where your partner, business associate, or friend is being detained pending payment of some type of fee. U.S. embassies do not detain people.
- The scammer claims to have been born and raised in the United States, but uses poor grammar and spelling indicative of a non-native English speaker.
- Although the scammer may claim to be in Afghanistan, he or she may ask that the money be sent to an account in another 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.
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 might 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, detained by the police, or is facing an emergency, please contact the U.S. Embassy for assistance.
Due to U.S. Privacy Laws, we are unable to “verify” the identity of a U.S. citizen or service member.