Foreign actors have perpetrated the “persistent, pervasive, and coordinated online targeting” of American veterans, members of the military and their families for identity theft and influencing them via social media, even trying to sway their votes in the 2020 election with fake accounts like “Vets for Trump,” according to a report by the Vietnam Veterans of America (VVA).
“Foreign admins have created individual social media accounts that purport to belong to American veterans working at reputable veterans organizations,” the report said. “They use these fake-veteran accounts to send friend requests to the relatively small community of veteran advocates and connect with its prominent members who work to shape federal policy.”
The fake accounts, mostly Russian actors posing as vets, “infiltrate” both public and private Facebook pages and groups “where they can spread propaganda and false news, while shaping and moderating/censoring the conversations of the unsuspecting” American veteran communities. They recruit Americans interested in veterans “and other foreign nationals to help moderate the groups and pages and make them appear more legitimate.”
The Vets for Trump page pushes a pro-Trump, anti-Dem agenda as well as publishing content advocating for Russia and its president, Vladimir Putin as well as for WikiLeaks and its founder Julian Assange while disparaging former Special Counsel Robert Mueller and the FBI.
At the same time, vets and military members have been targeted for identity theft, mostly by actors in West Africa, executing initiatives like romance scams, the report said.
The VVA’s name and logo have even been used to “lure its supporters into participating into fraudulent fundraising.”