Some of the most cynical scams target service members, their families and veterans, warns the Better Business Bureau. Veterans’ Day is a key opportunity for scammers who would target those who are serving or have served their nation, especially elderly vets.
“It is unconscionable that one of the most dedicated and selfless segments of our population would be targeted by unscrupulous businesses, but they are,” said Brenda Linnington, director of BBB Military Line. “At BBB, we believe our military consumers deserve the level of respect and support commensurate with the effort they make every day on behalf of the rest of us – and we’ll do our utmost on their behalf by promoting a safe and ethical marketplace for all military consumers.” BBB Military Line provides free financial literacy and consumer protection services to the military community, as well as information on the latest scams, schemes, and ID theft tactics that threaten them.
Among the scams to watch out for:
Posing as the Veterans Administration and contacting vets to say they need to update their credit card, bank or other financial records with the VA;
Charging veterans for services they could get for free or less expensively elsewhere, such as military records;
Fraudulent investment schemes that convince veterans to transfer their assets into an irrevocable trust;
Offering “instant approval” military loans (“no credit check,” “all ranks approved”) that can have high interest rates and hidden fees;
Advertising housing online with military discounts and incentives, and then bilking service personnel out of the security deposit;
Trying to sell things like security systems to spouses of deployed military personnel by saying the service member ordered it to protect his or her family;
Selling stolen vehicles at low prices by claiming to be soldiers who need to sell fast because they’ve been deployed;
Posing as government contractors recruiting veterans and then asking for a copy of the job applicants’ passport (which contains a lot of personal information);
Posing on online dating services as a lonely service member in a remote part of Iraq or Afghanistan, and then asking for money to be wired to a third party for some emergency.
Another caution is to watch out for questionable charity appeals that raise funds on behalf of military organizations. “Telephone solicitors will call and say they are with a group that is helping veterans, service members or their families,” says Art Taylor, president and CEO of the BBB Wise Giving Alliance. “As with all charity appeals, before you donate, check out the organization with the BBB to verify that the charity meets BBB charity standards.”
BBB advises service members, veterans and all consumers never to give personal identification information (Social Security, bank account, military identification or credit card numbers, etc.) to anyone who contacts you by phone or e-mail, and to be wary of any solicitations that involve purchasing something or transferring money. Consumers can check out businesses and charities for free at www.evansville.bbb.org. Military personnel and veterans who need assistance should contact the United Service Organizations (www.uso.org), their state office of veterans’ affairs, or the Veterans’ Administration