Frequently Asked Questions

 

 

 

 

 

 

What is a Military Imposter?

 

A military imposter is a person who makes false claims about his or her military service in civilian life. This includes claims by people that have never been in the military as well as lies or embellishments by genuine veterans.  Some individuals who do this also wear privately obtained uniforms or medals which were never officially issued to them.

In British military slang, such imposters are called "Walts", based on James Thurber's fictional character, Walter Mitty, who daydreamed of being a war hero.    In the United States since the early 2000s, the term "stolen valor" has become popular slang for this kind of behavior, so named for the 1998 book of that name.   Other terms include "fake warriors", "military phonies", "medal cheats", and "military posers".   In Australia, the term ‘wannabe’ is used to describe a Military Imposter.

Lying about military service or wearing a uniform or medals that were not earned is criminalised in some circumstances, especially if done with the goal of obtaining money or any other kind of tangible benefit, though laws vary by country.

Military imposters engage in a broad range of deceptive behaviors, all intended to achieve recognition from others.   An imposter may make verbal statements, written claims, or create deceptive impressions through actions, such as wearing a uniform, rank insignia, unit symbols, medals, or patches.  Generally imposters fall into two broad categories: civilians who have never been in any branch of the military, and real veterans who make false claims about their experiences or accomplishments. Imposters in the latter category may claim any of the following:

  • Being the recipient of awards that were not earned
  • Having a longer service duration
  • Having a more favorable discharge
  • Holding a higher rank than one actually held
  • Having served with a different branch of the military
  • Having served with a different unit that is more famous
  • Being a different role or Military Occupational Specialty
  • Involvement in a war or specific engagement one was not present for
  • Performing a brave or valorous act that never happened
  • Participation in "special" or "secret" operations
  • Being a prisoner of war (POW).

While many individuals outright fabricate some or all of their military service history, others employ equivocation tactics or similarly misleading language that avoids making a technically false statement, but still gives a deceptive impression.   A common example is stating one was in a branch of the military during a specific war. In many contexts, such a statement implies that the speaker was deployed to a combat zone, even if in reality never left their home country.   A similar misleading statement is boasting about being a member of a branch or unit that is well known for its combat prowess and heroic achievements, when the speaker was purely in a logistical role without any combat experience. Imposters also frequently claim to be part of "classified" operations as an excuse for why they cannot provide details or, when confronted, why there is no record of their actions or service.

 

Who is ANZMI?

 

ANZMI or Australia & New Zealand Military Imposters Group is an organisation created to provide a means for Veterans, their families or the Public to report concerns about the truth or otherwise of potential military imposters (wannabes) in their family, community group or veterans organisation.    Our members have a variety of investigative skills, service knowledge and knowledge of medals and awards.   Every one of our exposures are purely EVIDENCED BASED.   Simply put if evidence does not support the claim made by the informant, the case goes no further.   ANZMI does the same work as similar organisations in the UK, Canada and in the United States.   Examples of the work of these organisations can be found at:

http://www.stolenvalor.com/

http://www.stolenvalour.ca/

 

 

Why are ANZMI Members Identities Kept Secret?   

 

When ANZMI was first formed, many of those who were exposed accepted the fact that they had been caught out and had the courage to admit their wrong doing.   Unfortunately, as our operations expanded, it became evident that many of the reports being received indicated that many of the wannabes uncovered were quite prepared to confront, assault or use other means to attempt to make the lives of our investigators very difficult.   In other words, they were bullies.   This became evident as many of the reports from the public indicated a desire by the informant for their identity to be kept secret because of fear of reprisals from the imposter.   Modern imposters revert to threats of legal action (although they know their case is non-existent).   Our team does not have the resources or time to fight every report we receive through the Courts.     

 

 

Is it an Offence to be a Military Imposter in Australia and New Zealand?

 

Simply put, YES, it is an offence in Australia and New Zealand.   Under the Australia's Defence Act, 1903, as amended, it is a federal crime to falsely claim to be a returned soldier, sailor or airman. It is also a crime to wear any service decoration one has not earned.   The relevant sections of the Act, relevant to Military Imposters are:

DEFENCE ACT 1903 - SECT 80A

Falsely representing to be returned soldier, sailor or airman

(1) A person is guilty of an offence if:

(a) the person represents himself or herself to be a returned soldier, sailor or airman; and

(b) the representation is false.

Penalty: 30 penalty units or imprisonment for 6 months, or both.

 

(2) For the purposes of this section:

(a) returned soldier means a person who has served abroad during any war as a member of any Military Force raised in Australia or in any other part of the British Empire, or as a member of the Military Forces of any Ally of Great Britain;

(b) returned sailor means a person who has served abroad during any war as a member of any Naval Force raised in Australia or in any other part of the British Empire, or as a member of the Naval Forces of any Ally of Great Britain; and

(c) returned airman means a person who has served abroad during any war as a member of any Air Force, air service or flying corps raised in Australia or in any other part of the British Empire or as a member of the air forces of any Ally of Great Britain

DEFENCE ACT 1903 - SECT 80B

Improper use of service decorations

(1) A person is guilty of an offence if:

(a) the person wears a service decoration; and

(b) the person is not the person on whom the decoration was conferred.

Penalty: 30 penalty units or imprisonment for 6 months, or both.

(2) Where the person upon whom a service decoration was conferred has died, it is not an offence against subsection (1) for a member of the family of that person to wear the service decoration if the member of the family does not represent himself as being the person upon whom the decoration was conferred.

Note: The defendant bears an evidential burden in relation to the matter in subsection (2). See subsection 13.3(3) of the Criminal Code.

(3) It is not an offence against subsection (1) for a person to wear a service decoration in the course of a dramatic or other visual representation (including such a representation to be televised) or in the making of a cinematograph film.

Note: The defendant bears an evidential burden in relation to the matter in subsection (3). See subsection 13.3(3) of the Criminal Code.

(4) A person shall not falsely represent himself as being the person upon whom a service decoration has been conferred.

Penalty: 30 penalty units or imprisonment for 6 months, or both.

(5) A person shall not deface or destroy, by melting or otherwise, a service decoration.

Penalty: 60 penalty units or imprisonment for 12 months, or both.

In New Zealand, the illegal actions of military imposters is covered under of the Military Decorations and Distinctive Badges Act 1918 which states:

4A Offences in respect of military decorations

(1) In this section the term military decoration means any medal, clasp, badge, ribbon, stripe, emblem, or decoration issued, supplied, or authorised, or purporting or reputed to be issued, supplied, or authorised, by a naval, military, or air force authority, whether in New Zealand or in any other Commonwealth country; but does not include an ordinary regimental badge or any brooch or ornament representing such a badge.

(2) Every person commits an offence and is liable on conviction to a fine not exceeding $500—

(a) who represents himself, contrary to the fact, to be a person who is or has been entitled to wear or use any military decoration; or

(b) who wears or uses any medal, clasp, badge, ribbon, stripe, emblem, or decoration that is intended or is likely, by reason of its appearance or in any other manner, to cause any person to believe, contrary to the fact, that it is a military decoration; or

(c) who, without reasonable excuse, supplies or offers to supply—

(i) any military decoration; or

(ii) any medal, clasp, badge, ribbon, stripe, emblem, or decoration that is intended or is likely, by reason of its appearance or in any other manner, to cause any person to believe, contrary to the fact, that it is a military decoration—

to any person who is not authorised to wear or use that military decoration.

(3) In a prosecution under this section, the burden of proving that any person is authorised to wear or use any military decoration shall be on the defendant.

 

 

Why Expose Military Imposter on a Website rather than report it to Police?

 

Over the years, ANZMI has worked closely with police from all jurisdictions in Australia and New Zealand.   Unfortunately, the actions of military imposters are viewed differently across these jurisdictions.   Often, police will take a greater interest in a case where a military imposter is gaining a financial or similar benefit from their actions.   Regrettably, wearing fake medals and awards, or telling tall stories is not prosecuted with the same vigour, simply because a victim is not evident.   In some cases, the informant is not prepared to pursue the matter with the police.   ANZMI respects the informants right to not pursue a prosecution.   In some cases, action against the imposter is taken internally by RSL Sub Branches or other Veteran organisations.   This is sometimes seen as being the end of the matter, despite the fact the imposter has violated Commonwealth Law.

It is important that military imposters are exposed.   They are simply liars who are living of the deeds of genuine servicemen and women.   A significant number of former members of the Defence Forces of Australia and New Zealand have suffered injury and trauma because of their service.   The actions of military imposters are offensive and disrespectful to the genuine veteran’s community.   If the evidence presented to ANZMI demonstrates the wrong doing of a military imposter, we will expose those actions and prosecute our case with the evidence provided to us and uncovered during our investigation.   If a matter is in the hands of the police, we will not publish until the matter has been finalised by the authorities.

 

 

Who are the Victims of the military imposter?  

 

The level of victimisation depends on the imposter and his/her actions.   In a simple case, such as the wearing of medals and awards not earned, the Victim is the veteran community, those men and women who did serve their country in the Armed Forces either in a combat situation or general service in the ADF.   At the serious end of the scale, some imposters use false claims of injuries such as PTSD to justify domestic violence against their partners.   Many reports to ANZMI are cries for help and ANZMI investigators have become adept at putting those victims in need of help in touch with the appropriate agencies.

It is difficult for some to understand why it is wrong for us to expose someone wearing medals they did not earn through service in the Defence Forces or emergency services.

 

 

Is Every Report to ANZMI put on the Website?

 

No.   ANZMI receives hundreds of reports each year.   Statistical data indicates that less than 50% of these reports evolve into exposures on our website.   All our exposures are posted to the Website only after rigorous investigation and peer review.  

 

 

 

What do I do if I want to report a Military Imposter?

 

If you suspect a person to be a military imposter, you can lodge a report on our website.   We ask that you provide us will as much evidence in your possession as possible.   If the evidence involves photographs or records of conversation etc, we will require a Statutory Declaration to support the claims being made by the informant.

If your concern is because of the fear of violence or other criminal action by the imposter, we encourage you to report the matter to police immediately.

After lodging you report, one of our investigators will get in contact with you via email.   The investigator will work with you to examine the report.   All ANZMI cases are evidenced based, if the evidence is ‘word of mouth’, or lacking substance we will inform you that we cannot accept the report.  

 

 

What is a ‘Tin Medal’?

Many Veterans groups, associations and the like, develop medals for their specific group.   These medals are authorised and designed by the group and have no official standing in either the Australian or New Zealand Honours and Awards Systems.   They are deemed to be ‘unofficial medals’ and should not be worn with officially awarded medals.   However, exceptions to that rule are accepted as being that the unofficial medal cam be worn on the right side when attending association functions and the like.

Unfortunately, there are those in the veteran community who believe that the more medals you wear, the more of a ‘gun ho’ type you are.   Rather than being proud of the service they had in the ADF, some imposters like to add ‘tin’ medals to their official medals.   Like a peacock, they believe the more medals on display, the more likely they will attract interest and feed their ego.   ANZMI receives numerous reports of incorrect wearing of tin medals and these reports invariably find their way to our website. 

Tin Medals are not replica medals of genuine official medals.   Many veterans prefer to obtain replica medals of their official awards so that the original awards can be kept safe and the replicas used for day to day wear.   Replica medals can be obtained from reputable medal mounters or suppliers.      

 

 

 

Why does it matter what side I wear my medals?

 

Several cases on our website involve the wearing of Federal and State Awards on the same side.   Indeed, some argue with us and ask, ‘why does it matter?’ 

State awards include State Long Service Awards (Emergency Services), Bravery Awards, etc. issued by the State or Emergency Service.   They are official awards, but are not Commonwealth Awards.

This is a difficult situation which could easily be resolved if the State and Federal Governments got together and changed the Commonwealth Order of Precedence to allow Federal and State awards to be worn on the same side.

The situation is made even more difficult because Commissioners of some jurisdictions such as the WA and NT police and NSW Corrective Services have authorised their personnel to wear State Awards

Until that happens, the mixing of Federal and State awards is no different to wearing unofficial (Tin Medals) with your official awards.    

It simply comes down to the rules.   The Commonwealth Order of Precedence requires State Awards to be worn on the right hand side and until that document is amended, the mixing of awards is wrong.