Stand guard against the scammers and the scams that target veterans and, even, active duty members. We spent years or careers defending our country and citizens. Yet, a few low lifes prey on the very people who defended their freedoms.
Back in the day long before the internet, you had to run the gauntlet of local establishments lining the streets when you left your base or post. They were there to separate the “young and stupid” from their money. Now the scammers are much more sophisticated and online.
This article highlights a number of scams that target veterans. I hope you find this information useful in avoiding scams. The Department of Justice, Federal Trade Commission and other agencies are committed to enforcing the federal laws that protect the civil rights of service members and veterans.
Charitable Giving – There are many legitimate charities soliciting donations to support the nation’s military members and veterans and families. They know that even in tough times, active duty and veterans are known to respond generously. But not all “charities” are legitimate! Some are bogus with the sole purpose of making money for themselves.
The National Association of State Charity Officials (http://www.nasconet.org/) – maintains a list of links to state offices responsible for oversight of charitable organizations and charitable solicitation within their respective states. If you have a question about a charity soliciting donations, check it out with your state agency.
Some scammers also claim their charity is approved by the Department of Defense (DoD). DoD does not approve charities. For more information The Military OneSource (http://www.militaryonesource.mil) is a good resource.
Fake IRS Agents – Scammers impersonate Internal Revenue Service agents and call or email people claiming you owe money to the IRS or they need personal information about your tax return. The IRS does not call. If there are questions about your tax return, amounts owed or anything else, the IRS will send you a letter. Even if you owed money, you would be notified by letter with information on how to pay or request payment plan. I received several of these bogus telephone calls in 2015; they do sound convincing, but is totally bogus. Remember, as a taxpayer, you have many options and time to resolve disputes with the IRS. So it will never be done by telephone.
Phishing Emails or Telephone Calls – These come a several different varieties. One common phishing email relates to jobs while another relates to financial services.
Transitioning to civilian life can be difficult even without bogus employment firms trying to hustle you for a buck. Active-duty personnel and their families are also targets because of the frequent change of duty stations. FTC offers these tips for identifying employment scams:
– Guaranteed jobs. Nobody can guarantee a job.
– Be careful of any company that charges you first, even if they offer a refund. If they get your money first, what incentive do they have to find you a job. Any situation that requires an “up-front fee” has the potential to be a scam.
– Be mindful that the “employment firm” may be seeking your personal or financial information for the purposes of identity theft.
Another type of scam are the “veteran advocates” or financial specialists who promote financial services products that are unsuitable or bogus. They try to convince veterans that they can get more by putting their investments into irrevocable trusts or risky, high-return investments.
Pension fraud is also common. Dishonest attorneys, insurance agents, financial planners and others try to convince veterans to make pension decisions without full disclosure or analysis of the consequences. The consequences can be devastating to an older veteran who could lose Medicaid eligibility or lose their money.
Military Loans – Military loans are equivalent to Pay Day or Car Title Loans. The military version offer loans based on a percentage of your monthly retired pay or take home pay. These loans come with sky-high interest rates and massive hidden fees. These loans typically are “guaranteed,” have “instant approval,” have “no credit check,” or “approved for all ranks.” An alternative solution is to visit a local military affiliated credit union. Or, if on active duty, see your local military relief society.
Veterans may report scams to BBB at www.bbb.org, the Federal Trade Commission at www.ftc.gov, or the Internet Crime Complaint Center at www.ic3.gov.