veterans are a prime target for telephone scams and even
more likely to end up as fraud victims than the general
public, according to a new survey released by AARP.
survey indicates that veterans can be victimized twice
as often as the rest of the public. The research
indicates that about 16 percent of U.S. veterans have
lost money to fraudsters, compared with 8 percent of
others during the past five years.
makes them more vulnerable is technology and
patriotism," said Doug Shadel, lead researcher for
AARP’s Fraud Watch Network.
artists will tell you, he said, that the best way to
scam a vet is to pretend to be a vet. In general,
veterans may be more willing to trust someone who claims
to have served in the military than those who have not.
And they may ask fewer questions about giving money to a
charity that claims to support service members and
is National Veterans and Military Families Month and a
good time to remind vets that a call that seemingly
comes out of the blue isn’t really a fluke at all. An
amazing amount of information is available on databases
and via social media that can help con artists
accurately target veterans.
AARP Fraud Watch Network and the U.S. Postal Inspection
Service announced the launch of Operation Protect
Veterans — a national campaign to warn the military
about scams. Operation Protect Veterans will use ads,
email messages, social media and a new website to get
the word out.
warnings are being conveyed by phone, too, using the
same tool as fraudsters.
lose money to all sorts of scams, including tech support
scams, those involving fake business and job
opportunities, and charity scams that play up
connections to veterans, according to those surveyed.
80 percent of the veterans surveyed said they have
encountered scams that specifically target vets or the
get all the same scam calls we get, except they also get
a lot more of these things that target veterans,"
to the AARP research, veterans who end up as scam
victims may have faced a significant financial loss or
could be juggling a sizable amount of debt. Some have
suffered a serious injury, illness or struggle with
mental health or addiction issues.
offer vets cash in exchange for their future disability
or pension payouts.
groups warn that benefits buyout offers can turn out to
give you just a small fraction of the value of the
benefit and in some cases the vet could end up losing
eligibility for benefits such as Medicaid and other
ads online and elsewhere, however, hold out a different
vision — of leveraging a military pension or benefits
by exchanging a "future trickle of income for cold,
hard cash in your hands today."
Wright of Salley, S.C., said he turned to one of these
programs to get out of a tight spot when he, his wife
and four daughters were threatened with losing their
home in 2013.
who served in the U.S. Army from 1989 to 1994, injured
his spine during a parachute training jump. He receives
40 percent military disability. And he signed a contract
with a company called BAIC to get a lump sump upfront in
thought he’d get a fairly large, five-figure payout.
But before he got any money, the firm forced Wright to
use most of the money to pay off existing creditors.
Wright questions whether much of the alleged debt was
even his because he was the victim of identity theft so
a thief could have racked up bills by opening credit
cards in his name.
ended up with about $8,000 from the benefits payout.
is a plaintiff in a suit filed in the U.S. District
Court for the District of South Carolina in Greenville
against BAIC Inc., the Voyager Financial Group, and
who works in a mail room at the Veterans Affairs
hospital in Columbia, S.C., said he had no idea that
such agreements to purchase military pensions or
benefits were prohibited under the Federal
Anti-Assignment Acts. He was not aware that the
effective rate of interest he’d pay exceeded legal
future pension payments for upfront cash turns into an
expensive way to borrow. The suit notes that the
undisclosed effective interest rates or finance charges
charged to veterans who want a lump sum advance on
pensions can range between 25 percent and 47.18 percent.
You’d owe far more over time than you borrowed
said such outfits prey on people who face financial
problems, much like payday loan or check cashing
using people," he said. "It’s taking
advantage of someone’s situation. I wouldn’t want to
be the person making money off that."
sketchy pitches can be made to raise money for veterans
where the money you donate can go mostly to pay
telemarketers, not vets.
Attorney General Bill Schuette announced a settlement
recently involving 24 states and the VietNow National
Headquarters, an Illinois nonprofit that ended up being
settlement rids the country of a veterans charity that
deceived donors, helped very few veterans and largely
served to enrich its professional fundraisers,"
— which also used the name VeteransNow — told donors
that a minimum of 12 percent after expenses was given to
veterans in a given state. But the group did not have
raised nearly $2 million nationwide. But, Schuette said,
most of that cash was paid to fundraisers and less than
5 percent of the money went to charitable programs, with
even less money directly helping veterans.
are encouraged to research groups before giving any
investment advisers can claim that a vet could snag
additional government benefits by overhauling their
investment holdings, according to the AARP warning.
such claims may not be true and you could end up facing
some high fees and expenses. The best bet: Get credible
information on how to qualify for veterans’ benefits
by contacting your state veterans’ affairs agency.
are warned to watch out for callers who are pretending
to work for the VA and then ask for Social Security
information over the phone. Caller ID can be spoofed to
watchdogs also note that fraudsters have put some fake
numbers online that are nearly identical to the number
veterans dial to find out whether they’re eligible to
use approved health care providers outside of the VA
call the fake number and a message prompts them to leave
their credit card information in return for a rebate.
They debit your account, and the vet gets nothing in
return," the AARP site notes.