(CBS News) — The federal government is issuing a warning about fake military draft notices sent through text messages, demanding Americans report for duty, and deploy to Iran. The messages — which began to show up on people’s phones as tensions mounted in the Middle East — threaten the recipients with jail time if they don’t immediately reach out to recruiters.
A military spokesperson confirmed that the Army is investigating the texts that seem to have started on Monday, CBS News’ Catherine Herridge reports. They don’t know the source or the motive, but the scam seems designed to capitalize on the conflict with Iran.
George Barnes, 18, received a text that read: “You’ve been marked eligible and must come to the nearest branch… for immediate departure to Iran.”
“It got me really nervous because I’m still in high school,” Barnes said.
On Wednesday, U.S. Army Command and General Staff College (CGSC) posted a “” of the messages on Twitter. Military drafts ended after the Vietnam War, and were abolished by Congress in 1973, making the United States military volunteer only.
The texts have been received in states across the U.S. and don’t seem to be targeting a certain age or gender. They come after the deployment of more than 3,000 additional troops to the Middle East, following last week’s U.S. strike in Baghdad that killed Iran’s most important general, Qassem Soleimani.
Commander Dave Henning is an Army recruiter in Jacksonville, Florida, where at least 50 cases have been confirmed by CBS News. He was listed as a contact on some of those messages.
“I was just really in a little bit of disbelief that people out there would take advantage of the situation that’s going on in the world right now,” Henning said.
“It would take an act of Congress, and with presidential approval, and really a global, international emergency to necessitate a draft,” he said. “They should just disregard the text message.”
The Army said it is not contacting anyone regarding the draft, and the texts are not official communications.
Wired Editor in Chief Nicholas Thompson said the scam is designed to make people panic during a tense time — and not to fall for it.
“This is a trap. They’re trying to get you to respond, and then at some point, when they’ve got you in a more compromised position, they’ll request money,” Thompson said.
“There’s no doubt in my mind that it’s a bunch of people who have run a bunch of other scams and know how this works and how the psychology works, and they’re sitting there saying, ‘hey, what’s the issue with the most emotional intensity right now? Oh, it’s the killing of Soleimani, let’s get in on that,'” he said.
There’s no evidence that anyone has been hacked, compromised, or had anything stolen in the fraud. The Army told CBS News to always go to an official website for information, not to click on any links, and to delete the message.