The Top Ten Ways Con Artists Target Veterans, Military, and Their Families

Posted on 11/13/20

Even though veterans and service members have protected our country with their service, con men are actively targeting them for frauds and scams. Fraud cost veterans, service members and their families more than $338 million in the last five years, according to Federal Trade Commission (FTC) data. The median loss for military scam victims in 2019, $894, was nearly triple that for the population at large.

Fraudsters use several tactics to target veterans. Fraudsters come at ex-service members from many angles, employing vet-focused twists on identity theftphishingimpostor scamscoronavirus scams, and investment and loan deceptions. 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.

• Scammers exploit veterans in financial duress by offering cash upfront in exchange for (much higher) future disability or pension payments.

• 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.

Here are the top 10 scams that veterans need to look out for:
Benefits Buyout Scam
Scammers offer an upfront payment of cash in exchange for a veteran’s future disability or pension payments. These buyouts are typically a fraction of the value of the benefit.
Charging for Records
A scammer attempts to charge for access to a veteran’s military records or government forms. Never pay for your records; all information is free through your local VA.
Investment/Pension Scam
Unscrupulous investment advisers claim the veteran may be able to claim additional government benefits by overhauling their investment holdings. Get credible information on how to qualify for veterans benefits by contacting your state veterans’ affairs agency. Visit www.nasdva.us and click on “Links.”
Veterans Choice Program (VCP) Scam
Scammers have set up a phone number nearly identical to the number veterans dial to find out if they are eligible to use approved health care providers outside of the VA system. Vets call the fake number, and a message prompts them to leave their credit card information in return for a rebate. They debit your account, and the vet gets nothing in return. Make sure to dial the correct number for the VCP: 1-866-606-8198.
Veterans Administration Phishing
Scammers call veterans claiming they work for the VA and ask for personal information to update their records. If you get an unsolicited call from the VA, hang up.
Employment Scams
Con artists post bogus job offers to recruit veterans on various online job boards. The scammer may use or sell your personal information provided in the job application. It’s likely a scam if you have to pay to get the job, you need to supply credit card or banking information, or the ad is for “previously undisclosed” federal government jobs.
GI Bill Education Marketing Scam
Veterans seeking to take advantage of the GI Bill for college courses may be targets of deceptive marketing tactics that provide false information and encourage them to attend expensive for-profit educational institutions. The VA offers a comparison tool to help you locate a school and determine your benefits. Visit www.vets.gov/education/gi-bill.
Special Deals for Veterans
Scammers offer special discounts for veterans on a range of products, like loans and car purchases. Often, the products aren’t discounted at all, or they don’t actually exist. Check out offers carefully, ask more questions than you answer and never wire money to someone you don’t know.
Rental Scam
A scammer posts a fake rental property on a classified ad website offering discounts for active duty military and veterans. You just need to wire transfer a security deposit to the landlord. Only there is no rental property, and you just lost your security deposit.
THE FAKE CHARITY Scam
A scammer, appealing to your sense of commitment to those who have served, claims to represent a charity helping veterans and their families. Only the scammers pocket the money and divert donations away from legitimate charities that serve veterans. Check out a charity at www.charitynavigator.org or charitywatch.org before supporting one.

Resources
AARP Fraud Watch Network - AARP Fraud Watch Network provides you with access to information about identity theft, investment fraud and the latest scams. Access online at: aarp.org/fraudwatchnetwork.

AARP Fraud Watch Network Helpline - Highly trained AARP Foundation volunteers are available to answer questions and offer peer counseling, support and referral services to fraud victims and their family members. Call toll free: 1-877-908-3360.

Federal Trade Commission (FTC) - If you’ve been victimized by a veterans-related scam, file a complaint with the FTC, online or at 877-382-4357. If the scam originated online, also report it to the FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3).

Military Consumer - This site, operated by the federal government, empowers military and veteran communities with tips and tools to be informed consumers. Access online at www.military.consumer.gov.

West Virginia Department of Veterans Assistance - Contact the West Virginia Department of Veterans Assistance for credible information on qualifying for benefits.

This story is provided by AARP West Virginia. Visit the AARP West Virginia page for more news, events, and programs affecting retirement, health care, and more.

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