Ursula lost her husband in active duty, now cybercriminals are using his photo.
About 13 years ago, Ursula had just lost her husband 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 the website live on the internet as a memorial.
A year after the website had been published, Ursula 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,” Ursula 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, Ursula 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,” Ursula 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 these scams have a place to go for help. Cybercrime Support Network offers a free, confidential Peer Support Program for romance scam survivors. These sessions provide a safe virtual environment for individuals to work through the loss, embarrassment and isolation that can accompany romance scams.
“His picture is everywhere, and it is impossible to do anything to stop people from using it. I have no control over it,” Ursula 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.”