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Avoid Veterans Scams


How to Avoid Coronavirus Scams Targeting Veterans

Fraud cost veterans, service members and their families $292 million in 2022, according to the latest Federal Trade Commission (FTC) data, with the median loss for military scam victims at $750 — up from $600 the year before. ​​Scammers target current and former service members from many angles, employing vet-focused twists on identity theft, loan scams, investment fraud and more.  Impostor scams are a particular threat, accounting for more than 40 percent of the military community’s fraud losses. ​  ​

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Targeting benefits

Often, the goal is to manipulate or gain access to benefits the government provides to those who served.

For example:​

  • Veterans are told they qualify for money from “secret” government programs but must first pay a fee or provide personal information.​
  • Scammers exploit veterans in financial duress by offering cash upfront in exchange for (much higher) future disability or pension payments.​
  • Criminals attempt to charge veterans for access to their service records or for government forms. Veterans can get this material for free from the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) or the National Archives.​ ​In another benefits scheme, unscrupulous advisers sell older veterans on plans to boost their pensions by investing in financial products that make it appear they have fewer assets. The advisers often do not warn veterans that the moves could disqualify them from other government help, including Medicaid, and strictly limit their access to their money.​

Impersonation scams and affinity fraud

Other scams are examples of “affinity fraud,” in which crooks pose as veterans, or representatives of organizations that support them, to gain access and trust.

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Have you seen this scam?

  • Call the AARP Fraud Watch Network Helpline at 877-908-3360 or report it with the AARP Scam Tracking Map.  
  • Get Watchdog Alerts for tips on avoiding such scams.

For example:​

1. Bogus military charities hit up former service members for donations.​

2. Phishers impersonating VA officials ask for personal information such as Social Security numbers, saying they need to update the veteran’s records.

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3. Criminals pretending to be from Tricare, the health care program for military personnel and retirees and their families, contact beneficiaries and offer them COVID-related services. It’s another ploy to steal personal or financial data.​

4. Fake classified ads for rental properties offer discounts for veterans and active-duty military. Targets are instructed to wire money for a security deposit for what turns out to be a nonexistent property.​

5. Scammers, sometimes posing as soon-to-be-deployed service members, offer special deals for veterans on cars, electronics and other products, again asking for payment by wire. Once you’ve paid, the seller disappears and the goods never arrive.​ ​Other scams target veterans seeking jobs, health care or higher education, or offer bogus tech support as a way to hack someone’s computer (read about how one veteran lost his savings in this scam). 

There are also scammers perpetrating PACT Act fraud (related to the expanded health care and benefits offered to veterans exposed to toxins during the Vietnam, Gulf War and post-9/11 eras). Criminals will offer to file a claim for veterans for a fee.​​

Scammers particularly like to say they can help veterans get funds related to the “Camp Lejeune Settlement.” The Camp Lejeune Justice Act, part of the PACT Act, allows vets and their survivors to pursue compensation if they developed serious illnesses from water contamination at Camp Lejeune. ​​

Warning Signs

  • An unsolicited call or email purporting to be from the VA, where the caller or sender:​ — requests personal information like your Social Security number. The VA will not ask for personal data by phone, text or email.​
  • Offers to help you increase your benefits or access little-known government programs.​
  • Claims to be from a veterans charity you have not previously supported or interacted with.​
  • A job ad recruits veterans for “previously undisclosed” federal government posts.​ ​ 

​How to protect yourself from these scams

  • Hang up if you get an unsolicited call that purports to be from the VA.​​
  • Use VA-accredited representatives to help you with benefits issues. The VA maintains a searchable database of attorneys, claims agents and veterans service organizations (VSOs).​
  • Research properties offered for sale or rent to veterans at a discount at MilitaryByOwner.com, and check online property records to verify ownership.​
  • Confirm a veterans charity is legitimate before donating. Check it with evaluators such as Charity Navigator and CharityWatch.​​
  • Don’t give out sensitive information such as credit card details or your Social Security number or send money to anyone unless you’re sure of whom you’re dealing with.​​
  • Never pay for copies of your military records — you can get them for free through your local VA — or to apply for benefits.​
  • Don’t allow someone else to access your information from the VA without an authorized power of attorney.​
  • Avoid jobs on employment boards if they require you to pay money to get the job or supply credit card or banking information.​

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Have you seen this scam?

  • Call the AARP Fraud Watch Network Helpline at 877-908-3360 or report it with the AARP Scam Tracking Map.  
  • Get Watchdog Alerts for tips on avoiding such scams.