When Anna Linden's online friendship with a handsome Australian general blossomed into romance, she thought she had finally met someone special.

The 54-year-old waitress from Aachen in Germany was initially surprised when "Mark Binskin" added her as a friend on Facebook. But he explained, in German, that he was lonely - serving in Kabul, soon to retire, having been single for eight years. It was only when he asked for 300 ($467) for a plane ticket, which he said he would repay by selling 5kg of gold, that she grew suspicious.

To her disappointment, her professed lover was using the identity of Air Marshall Mark Binskin, 54, the married former head of the Australian Air Force, who next week will take up his role as chief of the Australian Defence Force.

"I knew [the fraudster] would just keep asking for more money," Linden told the Sydney Morning Herald - having fallen victim to a similar scam, in which she lost 8000. She said she knew of other women who had been approached by the impersonator.