Better Business Bureau: On Veterans Day, beware of scams that target military personnel, BBB warns

CONTACT: Susan Bach, Director of Communications
PHONE: 414- 847- 6085
FAX: 414-302- 0355
E-MAIL: [email protected]

Veterans Day is one where we take time to honor those who have served our country. Unfortunately, scammers try to take advantage of our veterans and active duty military personnel year round, so BBB wants to use Veterans Day as a time to warn of scams that specifically target the military.

Veterans scams can take many forms. BBB provides the following information on different types of offers and scams that can put our veterans at jeopardy of becoming victims of fraud, paying more for items than they should or identity theft.

Types of Scams:

* Look out for firms that target veterans and charge them for products and services they can receive free or at lower cost elsewhere, such as military records and forms. The Wisconsin BBB warned consumers earlier this year about Lyon Research, a company charging veterans $90 for access to their military records.

* Be cautious of scammers who contact veterans saying that they need to update their credit card information or other records with the Veterans Administration. The scammers then use the information to commit identity theft.

* Be wary of bogus charities with names that reference the Armed Forces and seek donations.

* Hang up on fraudsters calling themselves veterans’ advocates who try to convince veterans that they can get more benefits by transferring their investments into an irrevocable trust, which often contains unsuitable investments.

* Military Loans: Flashy offers promising “up to 40 percent of your monthly take home pay,” “guaranteed loans,” “instant approval,” “no credit check,” “all ranks approved,” often come with sky-high interest rates and hidden fees designed to bilk borrowers out of cash and damage financial security.

* Housing: Ads promising military discounts and too-good-to-be-true incentives use stolen photos of legitimate rental properties to bait renters out of security deposits via money transfer schemes.

* Cars: Low-priced vehicles posted on classified ad websites tout discounts for military personnel, or claim to be from soldiers who need to sell fast because they’ve been deployed. Schemers convince buyers to wire money; however, there is no car for sale since the picture of the car and all of its information is stolen.

* Veterans For Hire: This scam targets our younger veterans. Scammers pose online as representatives of government contracting firms. When veterans contact them for a job, they ask for a copy of the veteran’s passport before they can officially offer them a job. Of course there is no job to offer and the con artist now has personal information that can be used for identity theft.

What to do? BBB offers help:

* Protect Finances: Never wire transfer money to strangers.

* Check Companies and Charities: Research companies at http://www.bbb.org for free BBB Reliability Reports or Charity Review Reports.

* Defend Computers: Avoid visiting unfamiliar sites or opening e-mails from unknown senders. Install a firewall and updated anti-virus software.

* Safeguard Identities: Actively deployed military personnel can place an “active duty alert” on their credit reports to help minimize the risk of identity theft. With this alert, the Fair Credit Reporting Act requires creditors and businesses to verify identities before issuing or granting credit. The Federal Trade Commission offers advice to help military families deter, detect and defend from identity theft.

* Report Scams: File complaints with BBB, http://www.bbb.org, the FTC, http://www.ftccomplaintassistant.gov, or the Internet Crime Complaint Center at http://www.ic3.gov.

What We Can Do: For those of us at home, if you receive a call or mail from a veterans organization asking for a donation, do your research. Many, if not most, veterans organizations use professional fundraising organizations that can keep up to 85% or more of donations received. If they do not provide the information, ask if they are professional telemarketers. By law, they must disclose this information. Also, many of these veteran organizations are not tax deductible. A legitimate charity will allow you ample time to check them out. Visit http://www.bbb.org/charity for a list of nationally soliciting charities to make sure any charity you’re interested in donating to meets BBB’s Standards.

Remember that federal agencies do not contact veterans via e-mail or text. If they do call someone, they don’t request personal information. Veterans who receive suspicious correspondence can contact the Department of Veteran Affairs at 1-877-222-8387 with questions. You can get information on how to qualify for veteran’s benefits by contacting your state veterans affairs agency. You can report suspicious e-mails and online scams to the FBI at its online complaint center.

BBB Military Line: BBB offers our military personnel information and help. Since 2004, BBB Military Line has provided free resources to our military communities in the areas of financial literacy and consumer protection through the efforts of 164 BBBs across the U.S. Military personnel may access information at http://www.bbb.org/us/Military/. For the latest military consumer alerts and information, follow us on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/militaryline and on Twitter at http://www.twitter.com/Mil_Line.

For more information or further inquiries, please contact the Wisconsin BBB at http://www.wisconsin.bbb.org or 414-847-6000 (metro Milwaukee), 608-268-2221 (Madison), 920-734-4352 (Appleton) or 1-800-273-1002 (elsewhere in Wisconsin).

About BBB

BBB is an unbiased non-profit organization that sets and upholds high standards for fair and honest business behavior. Businesses that earn BBB accreditation contractually agree and adhere to the organization’s high standards of ethical business behavior. BBB provides objective advice, free business BBB Reliability ReportsTM and charity BBB Wise Giving ReportsTM, and educational information on topics affecting marketplace trust. To further promote trust, BBB also offers complaint and dispute resolution support for consumers and businesses when there is difference in viewpoints. Although the first BBB was founded in 1912, the Wisconsin BBB began in 1939. Today, 125 BBBs serve communities across the U.S. and Canada, evaluating and monitoring more than four million local and national businesses and charities. Please visit http://www.bbb.org for more information about BBB.