An online band of vigilantes have uncovered more than 300 bogus war heroes who have either misrepresented or entirely falsified military service and honours claims. After receiving tip-offs, the Walter Mitty Hunters Club evaluates the information, investigates the case and approaches the alleged offender to "offer confession or expose".
"It's an insult to all those who have worked hard, felt the pain, and in some cases, lost people close to them," the group said. "There is also an abuse of charity resources, for example, PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder) charities where people will make up a service career to gain an advantage.
"In turn, the real people in need of help have to wait longer or don't get it at all. It's getting worse and needs to stop," the organisation told Sky News.
The group of anonymous members have spurred a growing number of genuine veterans to monitor both old and new media – including social networks – to seek out "Walts", a reference to the protagonist in James Thurber's The Secret Life of Walter Mitty. In the short story, the fictional character gets lost in fictional daydreams and intentionally attempts to deceive people by pretending to be something he is not.
The group advocates the implementation of similar legislation to the American Stolen Valor Act, which makes it a misdemeanour to falsely claim military accomplishments. The group argues that the prospect of jail time for those sporting military outfits for financial gain would deter frauds.
At present, the UK has no plans to enact a similar law. "There are currently no plans to introduce legislation along the lines of the USA's Stolen Valour Act," a Ministry of Defence (MoD) spokesman said. "It is already an offence to make a false claim of service if it amounts to fraud or a similar offence such as obtaining services dishonestly."
Former SAS serviceman Phil Campion said that while he could understand the motives behind such exposure, he did not necessarily agree with the group's methods.
"I do a 100% understand where this stolen valour thing comes from," said Campion. "But to gang up and expose people, and do it to the degree of mickey taking that they've done, banter or not banter, for me, takes it a step too far sometimes."