The Consumer Sentinel Network reported that in 2014, almost 100,000 military members and veterans were targeted for financial crimes. This statistic, along with the many scammers known to prey on military and veteran supporters, prompted the Better Business Bureau to issue a warning to these groups over Veteran’s Day. Thieves often target veterans for their government benefits and look to take advantage of the patriotism shown by their families and supporters. The following is an overview of some of the most commonly known scams targeting military veterans and those that support them.
Although there are many charities doing great work on behalf of veterans and their families, the generosity generated by these legitimate non-profits has prompted sham charities to pop up with more and more frequency. These scammers often imply money donated will go toward veterans and even have the words “veteran” or “military family” in their names but then will actually use very little or even none of the funds to benefit veterans, according to stopfraud.gov. The prevalence of illegitimate groups shouldn’t curtail charitable giving, but should prompt supporters to investigate a charity’s credentials using websites such as Wise Giving Alliance register or Charity Navigator.
Veterans are often the target of phone phishing scams where a person claiming to be with the Veteran’s Administration will call and request updated credit card, bank, Social Security numbers, or financial records. To avoid this scam, any veteran contacted should ask for the employee’s name and department and then call the Veteran’s Administration to verify the legitimacy of the request.
Veterans looking to qualify for benefits or collect their military pension should be wary of financial brokers, insurance agents and attorneys who falsely promise free work that will bring big financial returns. The danger with using these brokers is that they often do not disclose valuable information and may actually pressure veterans into making decisions that cause them to lose Medicaid services or delay benefits. Avoid a broker who offers to evaluate eligibility for benefits or to complete your pension or benefits application for free, or who offers guarantees of eligibility. Be wary of anyone who pushes a particular financial product and does not discuss the downside of the proposed plan, particularly as it pertains to your Medicaid benefits. To find a legitimate benefit adviser, search the VA’s list of accredited advocates and double check they have a current license.
Military records are available for free, yet there are services that will charge veterans to access these records. If you are a veteran who needs your records, contact the VA or your service unit and they will provide them to you at no cost.
Rental/Real Estate Scams
In this scheme, scammers post fake rental or real estate property ads, often using actual addresses and photos, and promise a deep military discount to veterans. The veteran is then asked to wire a security deposit or down payment to secure the property and the scammer steals the wired money. A veteran should never transfer money before seeing a property in person and verifying the agent’s right to lease or sell the property offered.
Remember, criminal tactics are constantly changing, so if you are a veteran or supporter, one of the best ways to protect yourself is to use a trusted resource like Lifelock to keep up with the latest security news and information. Then, with this knowledge, you’ll be better able to spot a scam when you see it.