8 Scams That Take Aim at Veterans

Serving Military Mother with sonEn español  | Just in time for Veterans Day, there’s a despicable new addition to a long list of scams that target veterans and their families. Scammers are calling widows of military veterans, saying the deceased had a hefty life insurance policy but payments are in arrears — and a few thousand dollars will bring the life insurance policy up to date.

Whether you’re an active-duty member or a military veteran, a family member or an everyday civilian who appreciates the duty and sacrifice of veterans, con artists have you in their sights. On Veterans Day and year-round, stand guard against these scams:

VA impostors. Don’t provide personal or financial information, including Social Security number, driver’s license or bank or credit accounts, in unsolicited phone calls or during visits from self-described employees of the Department of Veterans Affairs; it’s fraudsters who are asking under the guise of supposed policy changes for dispensing drugs or receiving benefits. As do other federal agencies, the VA will mail official information. Before providing any details, verify requests by calling these VA toll-free phone numbers.

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Other impostors. Romance scammers often pose as active-duty personnel (especially officers) in an effort to lure patriotic women into responding to inevitable requests for money. Another ongoing online swindle has crooks posing as soldiers about to be deployed or as a family member of a service member killed in action. They offer to sell cars at bargain prices, saying circumstances require them to sell their vehicle quickly. Upfront payment is requested (often by wire transfer), but the vehicle never arrives.

Fake charities. Bogus charities that claim to benefit veterans are a proven strategy, especially when targeting patriotic older donors. All types of charity scams tend to increase during the holiday season of giving, but Veterans Day (along with Memorial Day) is prime time for swindles in the name of service personnel. Scammers often use sound-alike names (if not inventing authentic organizations) to solicit funds. Before donating, verify charities by checking their names and reputations at the Wise Giving Alliance, operated by the Better Business Bureau, Charity Navigator or GuideStar. You can also contact the state agency that regulates charities where you live.

Grandparents scam. Military families are a popular bull’s-eye in this long-running scheme, which preys on loving grandparents. Swindlers get word of deployed soldiers from local newspaper stories and claim a problem while away on R&R, such as arrest or hospitalization.

Benefits scams. Some promise lump-sum cash payouts for pensions and future benefits, but they typically pay a fraction of their actual worth. Other hoaxes involve self-proclaimed “veterans advocates” who promise additional VA benefits by transferring retirement assets into an irrevocable trust that’s unsuitable for many older vets. And remember, it’s scammers — not the VA — who charge for services like filing pension or other claims or getting military records. If you’re considering such programs, have a lawyer review the terms.

Military loans. The promises of guaranteed loans and same-day cash to active-duty personnel (and, to a lesser extent, veterans) tout “instant approval” and “no credit check.” But they deliver sky-high interest rates and hidden fees. What makes these financially crippling loans especially disturbing is that military personnel may not need them at all — they have special financial protections, including a ban on their homes being foreclosed while they are serving.

Job scams. Past military service appeals to many employers, and con artists use that to their advantage. On Internet job boards, fraudsters advertise phony positions, sometimes specifically trying to recruit veterans, in an effort to glean personal or financial information for identity theft.

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Housing scams. Military personnel searching for off-base housing can be swindled by phony advertisements of rental properties. Using stolen photos of legitimate listings, scammers pose as real estate agents or owners to get upfront fees, often promising to grant military discounts in setting the rent. The typical red flag: a request to wire money or otherwise pay before getting proof the rental property exists or is available.

For information about other scams, sign up for the Fraud Watch Network. You’ll receive free email alerts with tips and resources to help you spot and avoid identity theft and fraud, and gain access to a network of experts, law enforcement and people in your community who will keep you up to date on the latest scams in your area.

Photo: iStock

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