Scams Targeting Veterans

  • Vetting for Vets

    We know that scammers tend to go after the elderly, college students and children, but an increasingly popular target is U.S. veterans. “Con artists will target any sort of vulnerable demographic,” said Denise Richardson, Identity Theft Risk Management Specialist. She explained that veterans are accessible due largely in part to the large number of legitimate agencies that support them. They are also eligible for many different benefits that scam artists take advantage of, such as long term health care and federal pension plans, that the greater population does not receive. “Scammers use these organizations and these benefits as a front to drag people in,” Richardson says. To help veterans avoid falling victim to fraud, MainStreet rounded up some of the scams used to trick military personnel over the years. Photo Credit: Wigwam Jones
    Government Calling
  • Government Calling

    More often than not, scammers will pose as representatives for the Department of Veteran Affairs (VA), the federal agency that provides benefits to veterans and their dependents, including health care, educational assistance, financial assistance and guaranteed home loans. Scammers will get a vet by saying that changes are being made to certain benefits programs. In Sept. 2009, for example, telephone scammers elicited credit card numbers from unsuspecting veterans by claiming to need the information because the VA had a new drug dispensing system, which was untrue. “America’s veterans have become targets in an inexcusable scam that dishonors their service and misrepresents the department built for them," Dr. Gerald Cross, VA’s Under Secretary for Health, said in a press release. "VA simply does not call Veterans and ask them to disclose personal financial information over the phone."   Photo Credit:  Aaron Fulkerson
    Data Breach
  • Data Breach

    The VA was actually the subject of a $20 million class action lawsuit after a computer containing the names, social security numbers and dates of birth was stolen from the home of an employee of Veterans Affairs in May 2006. The computer contained the information of over 17.5 million veterans, their spouses and other military personnel. The victims were then given monetary compensation for the expenses they incurred as a result of the theft or from physical symptoms of severe emotional distress they may have suffered. Photo Credit:  Cliff1066
    Veterans for Hire
  • Veterans for Hire

    In Oct. 2009, a scammer targeted younger veterans by posing as a representative of a major government contracting firm that was looking to hire veterans. The scammer contacted his targets via e-mail and told them that he would need a scanned copy of his or her passport before he could formally offer employment. Of course, there was no job to be offered; the scammer just wanted to use the copies to commit identity theft. Information obtained from a person’s passport can be used to open credit card accounts, take out loans, file a fraudulent tax return or apply for government benefits under a false name. Photo Credit:  TheTruthAbout …
    Investment scams
  • Investment scams

    In 2003, a group of predatory financial institutions sought out veterans with the hope of getting them to invest their savings into irrevocable trusts. The move would enable the vets to meet the eligibility requirements for a VA pension and other related programs like Aid and Attendance that pay additional benefits to veterans who need assistance with everyday living. It also, incidentally, nets the investor a decidedly high commission. The ploy, which still persists today, isn’t exactly illegal since the VA does not examine veterans' asset histories when it determines eligibility for a pension. However, this trust usually involves annuities, long-term investments that are considered inappropriate for older retirees. According to AARP, some annuities must be held for a decade or longer before they pay out a monthly income.  It can also jeopardize a vets’ Medicaid benefits since the health care provider will look into how a vet went from being well-off to poverty-stricken.   Photo Credit: Kenneth Moyle
    Veterans’ Charity Scams
  • Veterans’ Charity Scams

    Scammers don’t only target veterans, they use them to target charities as well. Back in April 2009, Chicago resident Donald McCarver played off of the public’s inclination to support veterans and/or military families by soliciting donations to the VA door to door. A former Marine, McCarver donned his military uniform, and instructed willing donors to make out checks to the VA, which he subsequently altered to be made out to him. McCarver was no stranger to veteran charity scams. Prior to his 2009 arrest, he had been convicted of eliciting $4,000 for a non-existent charity he pretended was set up to  aid military families. Different variations of McCarver’s scam have popped up in Minnesota and California. Those who want to donate to charity should consult the Internal Revenue Service’s list of registered non-profit organizations before selecting an organization to contribute to. You can also contact your city’s Better Business Bureau to verify the legitimacy of local charities. Photo Credit: US Army Korea -IMCOM
    Scams against Families of Fallen Soldiers
  • Scams against Families of Fallen Soldiers

    Scam intended to obtain personal information from its victims for identity theft purposes have been known to target families of fallen soldiers as well. One traditional scam resurrected recently involves scammers posing as representatives for the Defense Finance and Accounting Office or the Army Human Resources Command. They told families of deceased soldiers that they were entitled to monetary compensation in excess of $12 million. To get the money, family members were told they have to provide the scammer with personal information like their name, address and social security number, which would be then be used to steal their identity.    Photo Credit: Kevin Dooley
    Where to Turn
  • Where to Turn

    Richardson points out that federal agencies do not contact veterans via e-mail or text, and if they do call someone, they don’t request personal information. Veterans who receive suscipious correspondence can contact the Department of Veteran Affairs at 1-877-222-8387 with questions. You can get information on how to qualify for veteran’s benefits by contacting your state veterans affairs agency.You can report suspicious e-mails and online scams to the FBI at their  online complaint center. Photo Credit: Jon Phillips
    10 Scams Targeting Seniors
  • 10 Scams Targeting Seniors

    Retired veterans can also find themselves the target of scams against seniors.  Check out this MainStreet article to find out what you need to be on the look out for. Photo Credit: Ruth Ellison
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