Fraud cost veterans, service members and their families $267 million in 2021, an astonishing 162 percent increase from the previous year, according to Federal Trade Commission (FTC) data. The median loss for military scam victims was $600, 20 percent higher than for the general public.
Fraudsters come at ex-service members from many angles, employing vet-focused twists on identity theft, phishing, coronavirus scams, loan scams and investment fraud. Impostor scams are a particular threat, accounting for nearly 40 percent of the military community's fraud losses. A November 2021 AARP study found that veterans and service members are targeted by con artists at a considerably higher rate than civilians and are more likely to lose money to scams.
Often, the goal is to manipulate or gain access to benefits the government provides to those who served. For example:
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• 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.
• Con artists 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.
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. For example:
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No matter where you live, fraud is never far away. Report a scam or search for existing scams near you.