Love scam steals former military bosses' identity

04:36, Jul 25 2014
Rhys Jones
Former Defence Force chief Lieutenant General Rhys Jones

An internet love scam targeting lonely women has apparently hijacked the identity of a former New Zealand top military official, as well as Australia's incoming chief of the Australian Defence Force.

The New Zealand Defence Force is investigating alongside Australia authorities after a German woman alerted Fairfax Media to the scam that attempts to dupe women into handing over cash to fraudsters hiding behind the names and photographs of top military personnel.

An account purporting to belong to former defence chief Rhys Jones has been set up by impersonators, the second time that has happened.

A spokeswoman for the defence force said it had reported a fraudulent account claiming to belong to Jones to police in 2012.

"This case in 2014 appears to be a new impersonation page and the NZDF will now take similar action," she said.

Jones, alongside Australia's Air Marshal Binskin, was among several high-profile international figures whose identities have been used to create the fraudulent Facebook accounts.

On Thursday, Facebook suspended several other profiles, including pages portraying top-ranking US and European military commanders and a fake profile of American astronaut Mark Kelly, the husband of former US congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords.

Anna Linden, 54, a waitress in Aachen, west Germany, said she received a Facebook message from a man claiming to be Binskin after accepting his friend request at the end of May - less than two months after he was named Australia's new chief of defence.

Linden received messages, seen by Fairfax Media, claiming Binskin was serving in Kabul in Afghanistan, but he would soon retire and was looking for a partner as he had been single for eight years. The real Mark Binskin is married to wife Gitte.

The messages, written in German, quickly escalated to declarations from the impersonator that "I really love you" and "I promise you my life".

Then Linden received a message that Binskin was stuck in London without a valid visa and if she would pay €300 for a plane ticket to Spain he would join her on a holiday and repay her by selling five kilograms of gold he had in his possession.

"You will never regret it" the message said.

Instead, Linden decided to report the impostor as she had been duped once before by a fake Facebook romance last year that tricked her into paying €8000 over the course of a year.

"I knew he would just keep asking for more money," Linden said.

She is aware of other women in Germany and two in other countries who have been approached by the Binskin impersonator.

* The first headline on this story, unintentionally, conveyed two meanings. The story has since been edited to reflect that Jones was not "snared", as the original headline suggested, but had his identity stolen and used by the scammers for their purposes - as the story reflects.


Sydney Morning Herald