A hopeful trend: In the beginning, callers insisted: “Hey, I’ve been scammed by a U. military person and I want my money back,” Grey says. But since the government went on offense to alert people here, at U. embassies abroad and in the international press, the tenor of the calls has changed, he says. Defense Department has only a small contingent of personnel in Nigeria: fewer than 50 military and civilian employees and contractors, says Samantha Reho, a spokeswoman for U. Still, what Grey likens to a game of whack-a-mole has become a priority for him as he battles the problem through public education and media outreach.

The largest loss he’s seen involved a woman taken for about $450,000.

“It’s heartbreaking listening to these stories,” he says.

There are many variations of online dating scams originating in Russia and Eastern Europe but they have in common a high emotional and financial cost to unsuspecting scam victims.

Typically, a man comes into contact with a scammer through an online dating agency.

The 2,600-person command Grey serves is in Quantico, Va., and it investigates felonies in which Army personnel are victims or perpetrators.

Thus it lacks jurisdiction to probe the barrage of incoming calls, since the service personnel are not victimized beyond having their names and photos misappropriated.“They often portray themselves as who is on the ground in Nigeria,” using the ruse about being a U. Russian dating sites are very popular and while many men have met genuine, loving Russian women, unfortunately sometimes one encounters scammers as well.Scammers operate from countries with low per capita income and even if a scam takes months to pay out it is worthwhile for them, even for just a few hundred dollars.Scammers use services like Western Union because it is all but impossible to track the recipient of the money which can be picked up anywhere in the world. Grey has made it a personal crusade to warn the public about the online scams that are using men in uniform as bait to reel in women who hand over cash in the name of love. S., ranging in age from late 30s to late 70s, Grey says, and some are highly educated.