Consumer Protection

Frauds That Target Veterans

While most Americans are genuinely appreciative of our service to our country, we must be aware that unscrupulous people exist who target veterans and use them to line their own pockets.  Hopefully, this article will give you some insight into scams that target veterans and help you and your loved ones avoid becoming victims.

Special Deals for Veterans:  These cons can take several forms.  Some offer discounts on loans, car purchases or other items.  Sometimes there is no discount at all.  In other cases, the deal may be for non-existent products or services.  Check out discount offers carefully.  Never wire payments or transfer funds to someone you do not personally know.


Phishing:  This scam is very common.  The caller pretends to be from the VA and is calling to update records.  At times the scammer may email the veteran with the same request.  They are asking for personal and financial information that should already be on file with the Veteran’s Administration.  The VA, like the IRS, will not call or email to request information.  All such requests are made by U.S. Postal Service.  If you receive a scam VA call, hang up and contact the VA directly.
   

Benefits scams:  Dishonest investment advisors promise veterans additional VA benefits for purchasing particular investment products.  They may offer cash now in exchange for turning over future VA benefits. Many of them target veterans in nursing homes or other elderly veterans.  Be very wary of this type of financial advice.  Some unscrupulous “veteran’s advisors” push veterans to invest in insurance products or put assets into a trust the advisor creates.  They promise that transferring the assets will enable the vet to qualify for Aid and Attendance benefits.  Veterans who fall for this scheme often wind up without the Aid and Attendance benefits and disqualified from receiving other Federal benefits.  They may also end up stuck in an investment product that is not in their best interest.  Here is one such horror story:

  My 86 year old Mother was convinced to withdraw her retirement accounts to invest in annuity products in order to qualify for a spousal veteran’s benefit.  Total investment was $76,624.  She received payments for five months of $2,424, and died in November, 2015. She never received the veterans’ benefits.  Now, the commuted value on these annuities is $59,586.  A loss of $14,614!
Email sent to AARP Michigan April 27, 2016


Only deal with investment advisors from reputable companies.  Check them out before agreeing to invest.


Help with Benefits:  There are “advisors” out there who charge veterans to assist them in obtaining medical records, filing for pensions, or filing for other veteran’s benefits.  Be aware!  Legitimate veteran’s advisors do not charge for their services. You should contact the VA and obtain your own records or to ask for the name of a legitimate advisor to help you file for benefits.


Charity scams:  There are many, many charity scams where the scammer claims to be collecting money for veterans.  Authorities recently arrested a suspect in Oregon who was wanted in Ohio for embezzling almost $100 Million in charitable donations that he had collected from Navy Veterans over 40 different states.  The scammer pretended to be a Navy veteran collecting money for the U.S. Navy Veteran’s Association, which is a legitimate charity.  The scammer pretended to represent the charity.  (In fact, he had no connection with the U.S. Navy Veteran’s Association).  He would buddy up to sailors and veterans at bars frequented by the military and solicit donations.  Donors thought their donations, usually small sums, were going to the charity.  Instead, they were going directly into the scammer’s pocket.  Never give money to people who come door to door soliciting donations unless you know that person.  When it comes to charitable giving, always check the credentials of the charity.  You can use sites like www.charitynavigator.org/ to investigate charities and find out what percent of donations actually goes to veterans as opposed to administrative costs.


Keep alert!  Investigate before you invest.  If you do fall victim to a scam, report it immediately to the VA and your state attorney general’s fraud division. 

August 31, 2016


Works Cited
Hornbeck, Mark. “Veterans: Beware Scams that Target You!.” AARP,13 May 2015, http://states.aarp.org/veterans-beware-scams-that-target-you/. Accessed 25 Aug. 2016.
Keith. “The 7 Most Common Veteran Scams.” Scambusters.org, www.scambusters.org/veteranscams.htmlg/veteranscams.html. Accessed 25 Aug. 2016.
Steenwyk, Jason Van. “Spotting Veterans Fundraising Scams.” Military Authority.com, Military Authority.com, http://www.militaryauthority.com/benefits/finance/financial-problems/spotting-veterans-fundraising-scams.html. Accessed 25 Aug. 2016.

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