Navy SEALs fight a growing enemy: impersonators - CBS News 8 - San Diego, CA News Station - KFMB Channel 8

Navy SEALs fight a growing enemy: impersonators

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SAN DIEGO (CBS 8) - Ever since the killing of Osama bin Laden, investigators say more fakers are claiming to be one of the elite group of U.S. Navy SEALs in order to impress, and even cash in.

"The reasons for claiming to be a SEAL can range from anything," says former Navy SEAL and retired Capt. Larry Bailey, "Trying to get in some ladies' pants, or trying to get a job that pays $150,000 a year with someone who thinks you are a super hero and have the Medal of Honor."

Bailey and other decorated veterans co-founded the website, StolenValor.com, aimed at busting impersonators. To date, they have exposed about 35,000 fake Navy SEALs.

Bailey says it's a startling number, considering there are only about 7,000 Navy SEALs alive today, including veterans and active duty servicemen.

"There is no doubt the Osama bin Laden caper has caused a lot of activity to be started on the internet," he says.

The killing of Osama bin Laden by the elite SEAL Team Six is also fueling the phoniness. Jim Moats, a pastor from Pennsylvania, spoke to a local newspaper about his supposed life as a Navy SEAL after the successful raid. But he was exposed after he was confronted by a real Navy hero.

"I feel sorry for these guys. [They] didn't have the opportunity to become something a little bigger than themselves," says Bailey. "On the other hand I feel like something has been stolen from me."

Dan Hendrickson, a former commander of SEAL Team One, lives in Coronado and has a son currently serving as a SEAL. He says impersonators can be weeded out by real SEALs by asking a few telling questions.

Hendrickson says more often than not, SEALS don't talk about their service unless they are among comrades.   

"Everyone's got a class, and many of us know other people in that class and who served with whom and a few questions can smoke out who is probably not a real SEAL," he says.

The creators of StolenValor.com say they are constantly uncovering new impersonators posing as active members and veterans from all branches of the military.

If you think you know someone who is posing as a military member or veteran, you can report them at StolenValor.com.

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