Ursula lost her husband in active duty, now cybercriminals are using his photo.
About 13 years ago, Ursula Palmer, CSN’s Executive Director of Military and Veteran Programs, had just lost her husband, SFC Collin J. Bowen, after he was severely injured while in active duty in Afghanistan. To keep friends and family updated on his health before his passing, she had created a website. After his passing, in order to honor his memory, she kept this website live on the internet as a memorial.
A year after the website had been published, Palmer was contacted by multiple women stating that they had been in contact romantically with someone using the photo of her late husband. Not only had they been in contact with the scammer, but some of them had sent gifts and money.
“The women were heartbroken,” Palmer said. “They were already invested in a relationship, and two of them had already sent money. It affected them not only emotionally but also financially.”
After doing a search, Palmer found that the photo of her late husband was frequently being used on Match.com. The only action Match.com could take was to remove the profiles. But even after contacting multiple institutions about the crime, she was informed that there was nothing else to be done.
“The way my husband got injured and died was so traumatic and horrible, and then you have these scammers stealing his picture and making a profit out of that,” Palmer said. “It is heartbreaking and it makes you feel powerless because you cannot do anything to stop that from happening again.”
It is so important to make sure those who are affected by any scam have a place to go for help. At least seven countries have a single, nationwide help center to support individuals and small businesses affected by cybercrime. CSN is advocating for a National Cyber Resiliency Center in the United States where those affected by scams and fraud can call and talk to a real person to report cyber incidents, get help with recovery and decrease revictimization. A center would allow the collection of anonymous trend information to potentially issue alerts and help inform our nation’s security posture.
“His picture is everywhere, and it is impossible to do anything to stop people from using it. I have no control over it,” Palmer said. “The only thing I could have done was to never create a website, never use his photo or never share his story – but it is important to keep his legacy alive and the only way to do that, especially during this time and age, is to share it online. There are so many people who have good intentions and really want to know his story, especially those who have had loved ones who also died while serving.”