The word is out: Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel has nominated Gen. Joseph Dunford to be the 36th Commandant of the Marine Corps.
But before you try to follow him on Twitter, watch out: there are lots of accounts out there using his image to trap unsuspected users in “phishing” scams and “romance hoaxes.”
On Twitter alone, I counted ten different accounts using images of the real Gen. Joseph Dunford. Some include snippets of his biography, and some tweet bizarre messages at other users asking them to email an account so they can begin a friendship. All of them have fewer than 20 followers.
As it turns out, Dunford’s identity and images have long been appropriated by scammers hoping to make a dishonest buck.
“How are you pretty lady? I am Gen. Joseph F. Dunford Jr of the US Army,” began one “romance scam” message that was flagged on the website Scamsurvivors.com. That message, from the dating site Netlog.com, was accompanied by real Defense Department photos of the four-star Marine general.
Dunford impersonators have also been known to reach out to strangers via Skype. In a lengthy exchange recorded on a private blog, a scammer who claims to be Dunford says he is a divorcee who is looking to remarry after retirement.
It’s not clear why Dunford has been singled out for this malicious activity–the Defense Department makes images of its senior general officers widely available. Army Chief of Staff Gen. Ray Odierno, another frequent victim of online identity theft for phishing scams, has spoken out publicly about the problem.
But this could complicate Dunford’s relationship with social media, if he does choose to create accounts at his new post. Current commandant Gen. James Amos has no public Facebook page or Twitter account, and Dunford appears to have no Twitter presence thus far. This Facebook page bills itself as Dunford’s only real account and posts military photographs, but has yet to be verified and appears somewhat suspect.
For now, you can confidently follow the International Security Assistance Force, Dunford’s current command, through its verified account on Twitter.
For everything else, click with care.