In November we honor the gift of service we’ve received from our veterans, sometimes at risk of their lives. Unfortunately, instead of celebrating these men and women, fraudsters and scammers target veterans, either indirectly by phony charity scams (learn about them here), or directly, by scamming retired military specifically.
Veteran Scams: the Numbers
One study showed that 16% of veterans approached by fraudsters fell for the scams as compared to 8% in the general population. Veterans lost an average of about $900 – nearly triple the average loss suffered by non-veterans.
Why the higher susceptibility among veterans? It may be the level of trust among them given the risks they’ve sometimes shared, something fraudsters maliciously exploit. Moreover, special benefits are available to veterans – but not the ones scammers are offering.
Scams targetting Veterans
Phishing: That warm, friendly voice over the phone from a man or woman claiming to be from the VA is a typical scam approach. Many so-called ‘impostor” scams prey on veterans (learn more here). Offers vary, including:
* Exclusive veteran discounts. The scammer offers to connect the veteran with discounts – special car or electronics purchases, low (or lower) cost loans, home rental deals and more. These offers are available to anyone with the money to pay for them.
Charging to obtain military documents is always a scam.
* Posting fake rentals with lower costs promised to veterans. Once a wire-transfer deposit is secured, the scammer disappears.
* Claims to refinance an already low-rate VA loan at an even lower rate.
* Financial relief promised via an immediate buyout of future disability or pension payment benefits. The buyout is real; the scam is that the buyout is offered at a fraction of the benefits’ true value.
* Military Record Fraud. Scammers sometimes try to access private information by claiming to be from the VA calling to update military record. (Remember, scammers can create caller IDs, that look legitimate.) A related scam: charging a fee to pay for military documents. Charging to obtain military documents is always a scam. Veterans’ records are always accessible at no cost from the VA. Go to https://www.archives.gov/veterans/military-service-records or visit https://www.va.gov/ .
Tell-tale red flags
* Email from public email domains. Email from a public domain such as “@gmail.com” or “@hotmail.com” is suspicious. Legitimate organizations have their own domains.
* Upfront money payment requests. You’re advised that a large sum is available to you; all that’s required to get it to you is an advance payment. Scam!
* Any confirmation of an update to your information that you did not initiate. If you did NOT initiate an update, someone else did – and not to your benefit. Report this immediately to the VA and the FTC, and consider identity theft options.
Veterans: Protect yourselves
Never give your social security number, bank or savings account information to an unknown caller. Instead, ask for the person’s name, title and call-back number, advising that you will call (or write) after you have independently verified them and their “special offers” with your closest VA office. Or better yet, call the VA directly.
Aside from your own vigilance, consider applying for Identity Guard, a discounted identity theft protection service available to disabled veterans. For more information, visit [email protected].
To report fraud to the FTC, visit here.
For more information, go to:
Nona Aguilar is an award-winning writer of numerous magazine articles and two books. She has also edited four specialty business newsletter publications. Her work has appeared in Ladies Home Journal, Redbook, Family Circle and Cosmopolitan, and in The Business Owner.