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Family: Fake online profiles of soldier created after he saves cat

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Staff Sgt. Jesse Knott with his cat, Koshka Staff Sgt. Jesse Knott with his cat, Koshka
OREGON CITY, OR (KPTV) -

A local soldier's efforts to save a cat while stationed in Afghanistan captured national attention, but now he's trying to clear his name online.

Army Staff Sgt. Jesse Knott risked his life in 2010 to save a cat named Koshka. He made room for the cat in his tiny office in Afghanistan. He eventually brought it from Kabul to Oregon City with the help of a local interpreter and a flight paid for by his parents.

Knott's parents, David and Helene, learned last week that several fake Facebook profiles had been created using their son's name and pictures, they said. They were full of pictures from various news stories about their son, Helene Knott said.

On Thursday, Knott's parents got a call from a woman claiming to be from Mexico, they said. The woman told them she had developed an online relationship with someone she thought was their son. She became suspicious when the person who created the profile asked her to send money and sent her suspicious-looking papers that they wanted her to sign, Knott's parents said. The woman tracked Knott's parents down in Oregon City.

"I answered the call," David Knott said.

When David Knott heard the woman's story, he immediately knew she had fallen for a scam, he said. The actions she described over the phone were not things his son would do, he said. And when he pulled up a Facebook page that had his son's name and picture, David Knott knew someone had used his son's identity to victimize other people, he said.

"I was shocked at how much work went into it to make it ... really make it look real," David Knott said. "It was believable and looked credible."

After hanging up the phone, Knott's parents immediately called their son, they said. He's now stationed at Joint Base Lewis McChord near Tacoma, WA.

"I was horrified," said Jesse Knott. "There was this horrifying reality that suddenly this isn't a page I created, this isn't something that I'm doing and there's this person masquerading as me."

After a little research, Jesse Knott realized a handful of Facebook pages had been created using his likeness, he said. Some of the fake profiles had personal information about him that wasn't true, he said. At least one profile had a picture of him that he had never seen, he added.

The woman who called Knott's parents even sent him the chat logs of the conversations she had with the person she thought was him, Jesse Knott said.

"Looking at these chat logs, it's horrifying to see my name with these words coming out and knowing that these aren't things that I'm saying," Jesse Knott said. "This isn't me." 

Jesse Knott says he feels bad for what the woman went through. He hopes his story will create awareness about what can happen online, he said.

"I would never ask anyone for money," he said. "That's something I would never think to do. I have a strong sense of pride about that, and if I can't afford something, that means I don't need it."

Jesse Knott reported the fake profiles to Facebook, he said. It appears only one of them has been taken down. After seeking advice from local law enforcement, his parents filed a report with the Internet Fraud Complaint Center, they said. It works with the FBI. There's no word on the status of the investigation.

FOX 12 tried to contact Facebook and the Internet Fraud Complaint Center for comment. So far, FOX 12 hasn't heard back.

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