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Critter Corner: Protecting Veterans from Being Scammed

Dear Angel,

I heard that Veterans are being targeted with certain scams. My mother is a Veteran, and I want to protect her from them. Can you provide more information on the most prevalent scams targeting Veterans, so I can make her aware and protect her as best as I can? Thanks for your help!

Vetta Rinns

Dear Vetta,

Thank you to your mother for her service to our country!

Veterans — especially those who receive compensation benefits — are unfortunately sought-after targets for certain scams. Sadly, Veterans are twice as likely to unknowingly participate in a scam as the general population, according to an AARP survey. An estimated 16 percent of Veterans describe losing some money to fraud, while 78 percent report scams explicitly designed to exploit their military service.

Common scams targeting Veterans are as follows:

Imposter scams are the most popular type of Veteran fraud, costing Veterans and their families more than $40 million a year. In this type of fraud, scammers pose as friends, relatives, or even romantic interests. The scammer will approach Veterans with an urgent financial need that preys on their sense of responsibility. For example, paying for child support or to cover rent so they don’t get evicted. Romance scams are among the most popular, as the US Army Criminal Investigation Division receives hundreds of complaints a month involving military romance scams!

In another version of this scam, someone will masquerade as a government employee or ​member of a military charity. An impersonator then calls and asks for money, bank account numbers, and Social Security numbers. If anyone reaches out to you over email, phone, text, or dating apps and asks for money or financial information, ignore them and report the fraud to the FTC.

Phishing scams are when scammers send emails that appear to come from an official organization, such as the government or a bank. The often legitimate-looking email serves as the lure, but their true goal is to collect your banking or credit card information. In some cases, scam emails may ask you to click on a link or download an attachment. The link or attachment then proceeds to install malware on your computer if you click or download it. Scammers may also send phishing links through social media platforms, such as Facebook or LinkedIn.
Fraudulent investment scammers will often target military benefits and pensions. In this fraud, someone will approach you offering bigger pension payments in return for an upfront investment. Once you pay the fee, however, they disappear with your money and could even steal your benefits. Some of these scammers may pose as a friend or another former soldier and encourage you to get in early on a great investment. Others will reach out pretending to be investment advisors or pension fund managers. Remember: If it seems too good to be true, it probably is!
Scammers have also set up fake websites to charge Veterans to access their military records or medical records (i.e., medical identity theft). Remember: there is generally no charge for military members and their families to access basic personnel or medical records.
In employment scams, scammers pose as legitimate companies and post job vacancies on websites such as LinkedIn, Indeed, and Facebook. These scam listings will usually specifically make the ads more appealing to Veterans. As part of the job application process, the fraudster asks for your Social Security number, bank account information, or even payment for fake training or work equipment.

Under the PACT Act, Veterans and service members exposed to toxic substances are eligible for expanded benefits and health care. In a new scam, fraudsters have seized this opportunity to target Veterans by charging a fee (or percentage of benefits) to help them file a claim. If you need help applying for a claim under the PACT Act, use the VA’s online accreditation search tool to make sure you’re getting legitimate help. You can also choose to apply at a VA regional office.

I’ve Been Scammed. Now What?

If you believe you have been the victim of Veteran fraud by someone claiming to represent the Department of Veterans Affairs, you can report the incident as follows to the VA Office of Inspector General (OIG) here.

If you or someone you know fall victim to a scam, you can also file a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission, either online or by dialing 877-382-4357.

Hope this is helpful!

Angel

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About Renee Eder

Renee Eder is the Director of Public Relations for the Farr Law Firm, and gives the voice to the Critters of Critter Corner. Renee’s poodle, Penny, is an official comfort dog who she and her children bring to visit with seniors who are in the early stages of dementia at a local senior home once a month.

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