By Amy Miller, AFC®
U.S. Veterans are targeted by scammers and con artists significantly more than civilians. They are around 40% more likely to lose money due to fraud than civilians according to a 2021 AARP Survey. Further, the report shows (and agrees with the Federal Trade Commission’s report that I referenced earlier this month) that veterans report the highest individual amounts of monetary losses due to fraud, which more than doubled in 2021 and reached around $267 million.
Knowing this, I wanted to discuss the scams targeting our veterans this week.
We will start with benefit scams. Approximately 1 in 3 veterans has been the victim of these types of scams. They currently make up around 47% of all scams targeting veterans.
Scammers see government benefits as a quick paycheck, making veterans a prime target. They will pose as someone from the VA, a charity, or a group providing services to veterans to gain their trust and ultimately access to their personal information (PII) and benefits. They often use military terms and reference real and true government information to gain the veteran’s trust.
A few popular scams to be on alert for include “pension poaching” where an “advisor” promises monetary growth or additional benefits. Another is a “benefits buyout” where they offer the veteran a lump sum payment in exchange for turning over their monthly disability or pension payments. Typically, a payout never comes.
Health Care Scams
It could be free prescription offers or discounted medical equipment like a wheelchair or walker, these scammers make promises of saving money but are actually just attempting to obtain your information to use to steal your identity or fraudulently bill the VA and collect on bogus charges.
We discussed these in more detail earlier this month. Scammers will claim to be the VA or Tricare (or some other related entity), needing to update your information. Again, these are all just ploys to gain your personal information to steal your identity and access your benefits.
GI Bill Scams
Scammers may pose as education representatives and use deceptive tactics and false information to convince veterans to attend expensive institutions. They may also promise computers, cell phones, and gift cards for enrolling. The scammers typically never enroll the veteran in any classes or enroll them in online courses at lower-cost institutions and then attempt to collect housing allowances, pocketing the difference in cost or all the funds.
These scams have been growing in number recently due to the shift in virtual and remote employment during and after the Covid 19 Pandemic. Fake jobs are posted online to gain an individual’s personal identifying information (PII) after making a bogus job offer.
Another employment scam that I saw several times during my time in banking was meant to steal funds from job seekers. Employment offers would be made and once accepted, a check would be sent to cover office equipment and set up. The individual would be given instructions to deposit the check and then wire their preferred vendors to pay for the needed equipment. The job seeker would follow the instructions and wire out the funds to later find that the original check was returned as fraudulent with no way to recover the money they had wired, resulting in a loss of those funds.
These scams will typically offer access to or updates to military records and forms like a DD214, which are free by law.
These forms can be accessed here: https://www.va.gov/records/get-military-service-records/
Awareness is the first step in protecting yourself. However, awareness isn’t protection so check back in next week – I’ll close out July and Military Consumer Month by talking about how to protect yourself!