Veterans are Disproportionately Targeted by Scammers

Posted on 04/03/24

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In 2023, military, veterans and their families made 93,735 fraud reports to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) where they reported losing $477 million. AARP’s report “Scambush: Military Veterans Battle Surprise Attacks from Scams and Fraud” shows that veterans and their families are targeted by con-artists more than their civilian counterparts. Scammers know that veterans share a special bond of service, and they play on that. They craft effective scams to get veterans to let their guard down and open their wallets. That’s why it’s critical that veterans, their family, and friends are informed about these scams and spread the word to protect the military and veterans.

Data from AARP’s survey shows that 86% of servicemembers and veterans have encountered at least one service-related scam in the past 12 months. Being contacted by someone offering thousands of dollars in increased benefits, promoting lower home mortgage rates, or requesting a donation to a veterans-in-need charity are among the top scam attempts received by current and former servicemembers. Nearly half reported they lost money to an offer promising a lump-sum payment for signing over their Veterans or disability benefits. Another third lost money on offers to update their military record or a request to donate to veteran-specific charity.

Key findings from the report show that servicemembers and veterans are plagued by robocalls, spam or junk email, and suspicious-looking text or instant messages. This is important because the more often you are targeted, the more likely you are to lose money to a scam. The data shows, in a typical week, military/veterans are 9% more likely than civilians to get 10 or more robocalls, and 10% more likely to get suspicious-looking texts or instant messages. They receive 17% more fraudulent “special status” discounts, 9% more phishing for account information, 9% more technology support/repair solicitations, 8% more lottery or prize winnings scams, and 7% more fraudulent travel or vacation package deals.

Here are eight tips from the Veterans Administration and the Federal Trade Commission to help military, veterans and their families protect themselves:

1. Look out for unsolicited call offers to help you increase your benefits or access little-known government programs. These are likely scams!

2. Don’t pay for copies of your military records. You can get them for free through the VA.

3. The VA may check in with you by phone or email. If you are unsure about the caller, hang up and call the agency directly at 1-800-MyVA411 (1-800-698-2411).

4. VA representatives will not ask for personal data by phone, text or email. If an unsolicited call purporting to be from the VA requests personal information, like your Social Security number, hang up!

5. Be cautious of telephone numbers on your caller ID. Scammers can change the telephone number (called “spoofing”) to make a call appear to come from a different person or place, including someone you know.

6. The VA does not threaten claimants with jail or lawsuits.

7. Use VA-accredited representatives to help you with any benefits issues. The VA maintains a searchable database of attorneys, claims agents and veterans service organizations (VSOs).

8. Scammers know veterans remain true to the men and women who serve. They will make up fake “veteran” charities or use a name that closely resembles a real charity. Before donating to a charitable cause, check out the organization at www.Give.org, www.Charitywatch.org and www.Charitynavigator.org

The state Office of Veterans Affairs (www.veterans.alaska.gov 1-888-248-3682) can help with veteran benefits, questions, or veteran-specific programs in Alaska. AARP has a Veterans Fraud Resource Center at www.aarp.org/VetsFraudCenter, which offers information and assistance to military, veterans and their families including a fraud help line at 877-908-3360. If you are interested in volunteering to help Alaskan veterans, AARP Alaska has a team working on statewide military and veterans’ issues. To learn more, contact Kay Spear-Budd at kspearbudd@aarp.org.

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

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