Scammers target vets and donors to veterans’ charities

Scammers will pose as vets themselves or pretend to represent organizations supporting veterans.

The Better Business Bureau says con artists will target many of the nation’s more than 19 million veterans on Veterans Day to steal their money and identity. 

“Scammers use vet-oriented twists on phishing scams, impostor scams, and investment and loan deceptions,” says Dennis Horton, director of the Rockford Regional Office of BBB. “The goal is gaining access to identity information to attempt to get benefits the government provides to the veteran’s account.”

In other instances, Veterans get a call and are told they qualify for money from “secret” government programs but must first pay a fee or provide personal information. Scammers also exploit veterans in financial need by offering them cash upfront in exchange for what they say will be a higher future disability or pension payment, all at a cost.

Imposter scams rank in the top five scams impacting former military personnel. Scammers will pose as vets themselves or pretend to represent organizations supporting veterans. In a phishing scam, they will impersonate someone from the Veterans Administration and ask for personal information such as Social Security numbers, saying they need to update the veteran’s records.

Other ploys include posing as a soon-to-be-deployed service member and offering special deals for veterans on cars, electronics, and other products. They will want payment upfront via wire transfer (Western Union or MoneyGram). Once they get the money, the seller disappears. 

Acting as rental agents, scammers place fake classified ads for rental properties with discounts for veterans and their families. Targets are instructed to wire money for a security deposit for what turns out to be a nonexistent property; or properties currently occupied by the owners.

Like all government agencies, the VA never calls to request personal information such as your Social Security number. The VA will never ask for personal data by text or email.

For the public, along with Vets, another red flag that you may be dealing with a scammer is if you get an unsolicited high-pressure fundraising call from a veterans’ charity. If you plan to donate to a military-affiliated charity, here are some tips on how to avoid being scammed:

  •    Watch out for charities that sound similar to more well-known ones. Many fake veterans’ charities include the same words in different order or form, to appear legitimate.
  •    Look for a clear description of the organization’s programs in its appeals and on its website. If the charity says it’s helping veterans, does it explain how.
  •    Telemarketing can be a costly method of fundraising unless carefully managed. If called, do not hesitate to ask for written information on the charity and its finances before deciding.
  •    Be wary of excessive pressure in fundraising. Don’t be pressured to make an immediate on-the-spot donation. Legitimate charities will welcome your gift whenever you want to send it.
  •    Before giving, check first for free with charity monitoring services such as BBB’s 

If you’ve spotted a scam (whether or not you’ve lost money), report it to BBB ScamTracker.   

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