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Trying to protect vets from social media scams

As Facebook and Twitter vow to fight foreign agitators, lawmakers say the social media giants must do more.

WASHINGTON — American military veterans are being targeted by foreign agitators through a complex network of fraudulent social media pages.

The Vietnam Veterans of America describe the exploitation campaign as "persistent, pervasive, and coordinated."

In a 191 page report, the organization names the offending countries as  Russia, China, Macedonia, Ukraine, Nigeria, and Bulgaria.

"These imposters were -- and still are -- using the name and brand of our Congressionally-chartered VSO [Veterans Service Organizations] to spread actual fake news that is meant to inflame national divisions," said Kristopher Goldsmith of the Vietnam Veterans of America, in testimony before the House Veterans Affairs Committee.

The hackers, spoofers, and trolls create fake individual social-media accounts that purport to belong to American veterans working at reputable veterans organizations. 

Their methods of tricking vets involve identity theft, peddling unauthorized merchandise and romance scams. Their objectives include election interference and creating confusion and division within the veterans' community.

"That esteemed trust in our veterans is now being hijacked by foreign imposters online and used to spread harmful disinformation, political propaganda, and fake news," said Rep. Mark Takano (D-California).

RELATED: Report: Thousands of elderly vets vulnerable to scams and exploitation

Facebook and Twitter representatives told the panel that they are taking action.

"We don't allow people to use fake accounts, artificially boost the popularity of content or impersonate someone else," said Facebook's Nathaniel Gletcher.

Twitter's Keven Kane added, "Over the last year and a half, we have challenged approximately 520 million accounts. This is as a result of our investments in automated detection systems."

The social media giants pledged to remain vigilant detecting and removing any bogus accounts. Lawmakers insisted, though, that they need to do more.

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