Data released from the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) in February painted a grim picture for the military community, which continues to be among the groups most preyed upon by con artists.
Based on reports submitted by consumers in 2021, the number of fraud attacks against veterans, military members and their spouses jumped 69 percent compared to the previous year, according to the 2021 Consumer Sentinel Network Data Book. Of those 110,827 reports of fraud, 26 percent resulted in financial losses, which totaled $267 million. Individual victims within the military community reported losing more money than their civilian counterparts, with a median loss of $600, compared to $500 for civilians.
How AARP Protects Veterans From Fraud
AARP’s Veterans Fraud Center is an online education and resource hub with information on the latest scams targeting the military community, tips for spotting other types of consumer fraud, and specially tailored resources to help protect veterans and military families.
“Targeting scams at members of the military community is unconscionable,” said Troy Broussard, senior advisor, AARP Veterans and Military Families Initiative and U.S. Army Desert Storm veteran. “The AARP Veterans Fraud Center is designed to alert veterans and their families about the latest scams and how to avoid them.”
Free resources in the AARP Veterans Fraud Center include:
The new AARP “Watchdog Alert Handbook: Veterans Edition,” highlighting tips for detecting the most common ways con artists target veterans and military families
Operation Protect Veterans, a joint program of the AARP Fraud Watch Network and the U.S. Postal Inspection Service.
Other useful resources include AARP’s The Perfect Scam podcast, which profiles America’s biggest scams each week, including those targeting veterans, and AARP’s free Fraud Watch Helpline, at 877-908-3360.
Impostor scams continue to grow
In 2020, military consumers reported fraud, identity theft and other consumer problems — including complaints against credit bureaus, bankers and lenders — in similar numbers. However, in 2021, instances of fraud surged. In fact, reports of fraud were higher than reports of identity theft and other problems combined. Meanwhile, for civilians, identity theft was the most prevalent rip-off.
Impostor scams, in which a crook poses as someone (or something) else, soared to 44,039, which is more than double the number of attacks reported in the previous year. Yet, only 20 percent of those who reported being approached by an impostor reported any financial loss. Still, impostor scams raked in more money from the military community — $103.9 million — than any other category of fraud.
Meanwhile, investment-related fraud — phony opportunities in day trading, bogus commodities and fake investment products — was the fifth most reported but had the highest percentage of military community members reporting a financial loss (76 percent) and the highest median amount of money lost ($3,000) out of the 10 most reported types of fraud.
Since 2020, reports of identity theft decreased 11.6 percent, and its three most common forms remained the same: government documents or benefits, credit card and “other identify” theft.
Reports that fell in the FTC’s third, or “other,” category dropped 6.4 percent from 2020, to 49,318 complaints. The top three in this category remained the same: problems involving credit bureaus, banks and lenders, and debt collection.