Fraud cost veterans, service members and their families more than $338 million in the five years ending in 2019, according to Federal Trade Commission data. The average loss for military scam victims was nearly triple that for the population at large.
Targeting veterans takes many forms. The goal is often to manipulate or gain access to benefits the government provides to those who served.
For example, veterans are told they qualify for money from “secret” government programs, but must first pay a fee or provide personal information.
Be wary of offers for upfront cash in exchange for future disability or pension payments. The policies typically are worth only a fraction of the stated value of the benefit.
Con artists attempt to charge veterans for access to their service records or for government forms. Veterans can get this material for free from the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) or the National Archives.
Other scams are examples of “affinity fraud,” in which crooks pose as veterans, or representatives of organizations that support them, to gain access and trust. For example, bogus military charities hit up former service members for donations; or scammers impersonate VA officials asking for personal information such as Social Security numbers, saying they need to update the veteran’s records.
Watch out for fake classified ads for rental properties offering discounts for veterans and active-duty military. Targets are instructed to wire money for a security deposit for what turns out to be a nonexistent property.
Scammers, sometimes posing as soon-to-be-deployed service members, offer special deals for veterans on cars, electronics and other products, again asking for payment by wire. Once you’ve paid, the seller disappears and the goods never arrive.
Never wire money to someone you don’t know. Wire transfers are like sending cash, and there’s little chance to recover your payment in case of fraud.
Ignore job ads recruiting veterans for “previously undisclosed” federal government posts. Con artists post bogus job offers to recruit veterans on various online job boards. It’s a scam if you have to pay upfront to get the job or supply payment information.
Hang up if you get an unsolicited call from the VA. If you aren’t sure a contact from the VA is legitimate, verify by calling the VA at 1-800-827-1000. Only work with VA-accredited representatives when dealing with VA benefits.
If you think you have fallen victim to any type of scam, call the AARP Fraud Watch Network Helpline at 877-908-3360 for guidance and support, or visit the AARP Fraud Watch Network at www.aarp.org/fraudwatchnetwork.
K. William Boyer is the Managing Editor of the Devils Lake News Journal. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org, or by phone at (701) 662-2127.
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