Scams targeting military & veterans

   read

Deployment Deception - Posting ads on Craigslist and elsewhere, fraudsters claim to be active-duty service members about to be deployed overseas (or as a family member of a service member killed in action) who need to quickly sell a car or other big-ticket item. The price is too good to be true for good reason: There is no item, only a request for upfront payment before the item is delivered — and it won’t be.

Rental Rip-Offs - Stealing photos and descriptions of properties for sale on real estate websites (or inventing their own), swindlers advertise bogus rentals. Some use the same “being deployed” lie to get upfront security deposits and rent payments (usually requesting wire transfers or prepaid debit or gift cards) for what they claim are their personal homes; others pose as landlords or rental agents touting military discounts for returning vets or active-duty personnel searching for off-base housing. In addition to lost payments, would-be renters risk identity theft from disclosures they may provide on fake application forms.  Scammers will post fake rental properties on classified websites in areas around military bases and communities targeting troops. Service members moving in to the area will be offered fake military discounts and be asked for a security deposit by wiring money to the landlord.

Phone Call Phishing - In unexpected phone calls and occasional at-home visits, older vets are the usual targets of con artists who pose as employees of the Veterans Affairs Department or other assistance agencies. Aiming to glean personal or financial information, these impostors claim a need to confirm or update records or may cite supposed policy changes for dispensing drugs or receiving benefits. As with other federal agencies, expect official VA information to be mailed, not delivered by unsolicited phone calls. Before providing any details, verify requests by calling these VA toll-free phone numbers.

Toll-Free Trickery - The latest con campaign against veterans: an impostor toll-free phone number that mimics that of the Veterans Choice Program (VCP), which allows certain vets to use approved health care providers outside of the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) system. In this years-old ruse, scammers buy phone numbers with the identical seven digits (but a different area code) of toll-free numbers belonging to trusted entities. When callers inadvertently misdial the area code (dialing 800 instead of 866 or 877, for example), they are told they won a prize or are eligible for complimentary or low-cost products and services. But it’s a ploy by fraudsters to get personal and financial information.

Romance Scams - To steal hearts and money, fraudsters frequently pose on dating websites as military personnel deployed overseas — a fake identity so commonly used that the U.S. Army receives hundreds of complaints per month from victims. Stealing photos and identities (including those of actual service personnel), these self-described officers and soldiers initially woo newfound matches before asking for money via wire transfer under the guise of a paycheck snafu, medical emergency or plane ticket to meet their “true love.” Or they send their own check, claiming a bank account problem, with instructions to forward back a portion of it; the check is fake, and the heartbroken target is responsible for those funds.

Grandparent Scams - Military families are a popular target in this long-running scheme that preys on loving grandparents. Scammers get word of deployed soldiers from local newspaper stories and, posing as the grandchild or relative, they claim a problem while on R&R, such as arrest or hospitalization, to get quick cash from worried elders.

Phony Jobs - Targeting younger vets, swindlers pose as government contractors, sometimes on job websites. The goal is to collect personal information (including Social Security numbers for supposed background checks, and bank account numbers for never-to-come direct-deposited paychecks) under the guise of employment opportunities that don’t exist.  Veterans and active duty members searching for jobs may come across employers who offer special consideration for their military service. Be wary of employers asking for personal information such as bank account numbers or that want to conduct a credit or background check. Some are scams that use your personal information to steal your identity and/or expose you to fraud.

Charity Cons - Bogus charities claiming to benefit veterans are among the most common and successful, especially when targeting patriotic older donors. To solicit funds, typically in unsolicited calls (often a local area code or prefix appears on caller ID), scammers often use soundalike names of legitimate charities or invent authentic-sounding “organizations” with heartstring-pulling pitches. Never donate over the phone unless you initiate the call after vetting charities through the Wise Giving Alliance, Charity Navigator or GuideStar.

Social Media Scams (Card Popping) - Fake accounts are being created on social media platforms such as Instagram and Twitter, where scammers often impersonate military personnel. They will then friend military troops and begin building a relationship through direct messaging. Eventually they will claim they can make you quick money by depositing money in to your account and in exchange you just send them a fee. They will ask for personal banking information such as your username, password, bank card number, and pin. Once the information is exchanged they deposit fraudulent checks and withdraw the cash, leaving you without money and possibly liable for the losses.

Military Loans - Military car and personal loans that require no credit check, have instant approval, upfront fees, or promise guarantees are highly likely to have hidden fees and terms that take advantage of service members, leaving them with crippling debt.

Veterans' Benefits Buyout Scam - Military veterans hard pressed for cash may be lured into this buyout plan offering a cash payment in exchange for their future disability pension payments and benefits. However, these payouts are only about 30 to 40 percent of what their value is and structured in ways harmful to veterans' finances.

Car Purchase Scams - Using websites that offer classified ads, scammers will create car ads targeting military members. They will pretend they are a service member who is being deployed or moving because they are being stationed somewhere else and need to get rid of their car quickly. They will ask for wire transfers or up front fees and will offer fake claims such as free shipping or discounts.

Jury Duty Scam - Military members will be targeted by callers who claim they work with the court system and tell the service member has a warrant out for their arrest due to not showing up for jury duty. Fearing they can get in trouble by their command, the caller says it can be taken care of by providing personal information such as a social security or credit card number.

Veterans Affairs Scam - Military veterans are being targeted by phone scammers who call claiming they work for Veterans Affairs and say they need to update their information with the VA. The VA never calls and asks for your private information by phone.

Military Life Insurance Scams - Hard sales tactics are used by agents who target military members. They will make false and inflated claims about life insurance policy benefits which are expensive and most likely unnecessary.

Veterans charities to watch out for:

  • American Disabled Veterans Foundation
  • Foundation for American Veterans, Inc.
  • Healing American Heroes, Inc.
  • Healing Heroes Network
  • Help the Vets, Inc.
  • Military Families of America
  • National Vietnam Veterans Foundation
  • Veterans Fighting Breast Cancer
  • VietNow National Headquarters, Inc.