Nearly 80 percent of veterans are targeted by misleading scams such as military charities, veteran loans, online exploitation and other suspicious scams. Scammers prey on the goodwill and patriotism of veterans to lure them into risky situations. Fraudulent charities use the same techniques as trusted charities by writing letters, making phone calls, sending emails and texts, and even using similar charity names. Exploiting honorable service members and veterans is a common endeavor for malicious people looking to make quick cash, however, you can learn the warning signs ahead of time and share them with your community. Do your research. Do not let scammers get away with taking advantage of your generosity.

Why veterans are easily targeted

Financial status: People who commit fraud are aware of service members and veterans financial status. They know they are receiving a guaranteed income such as a steady monthly income or a government pension. They use this information to their advantage to solicit false promises.

Education status: Since veterans are eligible for the G.I. Bill, scammers use this opportunity to attack people with education-based scams.

Physical and mental status: Whether veterans are wounded mentally or physically, they are at an increased risk to becoming victims of fraud by distributing personal information in exchange for help.

There are many charities dedicated to improving the lives of veterans and their families. Our veterans have made sacrifices for our nation but unfortunately dishonest people use this opportunity to obtain money and personal identity. Fake charities use official looking logos and names to elicit trust. This is a way to put money in their pockets.

Types of fraud and scams

Affinity fraud: This occurs when the scammer claims to be a veteran working for an organization that supports veterans in order to gain access and trust.

Charity fraud: Fake charities use names that are closely related to real legitimate charities. They usually pop up around patriotic holidays.

Benefits fraud:  This type of fraud occurs when a scammer attempts to manipulate or gain access to a veteran’s government benefits.  

Charging for records: Scammers try to charge veterans for their military records and government documents. This is a fraudulent act in which you should not give others access to your information.

Deployment scam: This scam targets military families and friends. Scammers post ads online claiming to be a service member deployed and seeking to sell an expensive item. This is an attempt to commit a wire transfer. Once the funds are received, the scammer stops communicating with the purchaser.

Rental / Real Estate scam: In this case, scammers will trick veterans into buying property with a military or veteran discount. This is also a form of wire transfer. Always research the property and the management company.

Phishing scam: Here, a scammer calls, emails or texts a veteran or current service member impersonating a Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) employee and asks for personal information such as social security or banking information.

Pension scam: Veterans and their families are a target for dishonesty when it comes to their pension plans. Scammers offer free help with paperwork for pension plans trying to persuade them into making decisions about their pensions without giving them the entire truth.

Benefits Buyout scam: In need of quick cash, scammers offer up cash in exchange for benefits that is harmful to veteran’s finances.

Imposter scam: Someone will call or email pretending to be someone you know and convince you to send money.

Do your research.

Do report phony calls or emails to the IRS or FTC.

Do tell your community by letting others know about the dangers of fraudulent scams.

Don’t give out personal or financial information.

Don’t make a donation in cash or by wire transfer.

Don’t take a charity’s name for face value.

Don’t make a charity appeal that comes in the mail.

What to do if you are a victim

If you or someone you know has been a victim of a veteran scam, here are some tips to resolve the situation.

  • Stop all contact with the individual(s).
  • Contact your bank to close any compromised accounts.
  • Save all information and messages between you and the individual(s) so you can file a report.
  • Report the incident.

Resources

If you’ve been victimized by a veterans-related scam, file a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission, online or at 877-382-4357. If the scam originated online, also report it to the FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center.

The federal government’s Military Consumer website has free resources to help veterans, service members and others in the military community fight fraud and make informed financial

If you or a loved one are in need of an attorney or would like to explore other resources, you can utilize if they are being abused, you can visit the Texas Crime Victim Legal Assistance Network.

Lone Star Legal Aid is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit law firm focused on advocacy on behalf of low-income and underserved populations. Lone Star Legal Aid serves the millions of people at 125% of federal poverty guidelines that reside in 72 counties in the eastern and Gulf Coast regions of Texas, and 4 counties of southwest Arkansas. Lone Star Legal Aid focuses its resources on maintaining, enhancing, and protecting income and economic stability; preserving housing; improving outcomes for children; establishing and sustaining family safety and stability, health and well‐being; and assisting populations with special vulnerabilities, like those who have disabilities, or who are elderly, homeless, or have limited English language skills. To learn more about Lone Star Legal Aid, visit our website at www.lonestarlegal.org.

Media contact: Clarissa Ayala, cayala@lonestarlegal.org.