Top Australian, New Zealand military IDs 'used in Facebook dating scam'

SYDNEY (AFP) - Australian and New Zealand authorities are investigating whether the identities of top military officers are being used in an international Facebook dating scam, officials said on Sunday.

Australian Federal Police confirmed the existence of a fake profile of incoming Australian Defence Force chief Mark Binskin, with the Sydney Morning Herald newspaper reporting that the page was used to befriend a woman in Germany and ask her for money.

Ms Anna Linden, from Aachen in western Germany, told the newspaper she received a message from a man posing as Mr Binskin. The man said he was soon to retire from serving in Afghanistan and was looking for a partner after being single for eight years.

"I really love you" and "I promise you my life", the messages reportedly stated.

Ms Linden said she notified the newspaper after the man asked her to transfer 300 euros (S$512) to him and said that he would repay her with five kilogrammes of gold.

"I knew he would just keep asking for more money," Ms Linden said, adding she had been a victim of a previous internet love scam.

The Australian Federal Police said it was aware of the Facebook page, and was providing advice to the defence department on removing the profile.

An Australian Defence Force spokesman said they was not aware of this particular case, but were "investigating the matter further".

Air Marshal Binskin is set to take over the role of defence chief in July.

New Zealand said it was aware of a Facebook page impersonating Lieutenant General Rhys Jones, who until February was the chief of the New Zealand Defence Force. His profile was also used in a similar scam in 2012, which was "referred to the NZ Police and also to Facebook as a violation", the New Zealand Defence Force said in a statement.

"This case in 2014 appears to be a new impersonation page and the NZDF will be taking similar action," the force said in the statement.

Facebook has been contacted for comment. According to the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission, Australians lost A$25 million (S$29.5 million) to dating and romance scams, including online schemes, last year. New Zealanders lost more than NZ$2 million (S$2.19 million) to dating scams in 2012, official statistics showed.

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