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Scams Targeting Veterans:
Unfortunately, veterans and their families are often frequently targeted and fall prey to scams. Below are just some of the ways Veterans are defrauded every day.
Bottom Line: Veterans should never give out personal or financial information in unsolicited phone calls or visits. If in doubt, don’t give it out.
Bogus sales – "A scammer claiming to be a deploying service member posts a large ticket item on a classified ad website that he needs to sell right away and at a steep discount. The scammer asks for upfront payment with a wire transfer or gift cards.
Military and Veterans loans – The promises of guaranteed loans and same-day cash to active-duty personnel (and, to a lesser extent, veterans) tout “instant approval” and “no credit check.” But they deliver sky-high interest rates and hidden fees. What makes these financially crippling loans especially disturbing is that military personnel may not need them at all — they have special financial protections, including a ban on their homes being foreclosed while they are serving.
Real estate rip-off – A scammer posts a fake rental property on a classified ad website offering military discounts. You just need to wire transfer a security deposit to the landlord.
VA phishing – A caller claiming to be from the Department of Veterans Affairs calls to "update" your information.
Fake charities – Bogus charities that claim to benefit veterans are a proven strategy, especially when targeting patriotic older donors. All types of charity scams tend to increase during the holiday season of giving, but Veterans Day (along with Memorial Day) is prime time for swindles in the name of service personnel. Scammers often use sound-alike names (if not inventing authentic organizations) to solicit funds. Fake charities use names that are close to the names of legitimate charities, often referencing Armed Forces, veterans, or military families. Before donating, verify charities by checking their names, rating and reputations.
Benefits "buyout" – Scammers will target veterans in need of money by offering cash in exchange for their future disability or pension payments. These buyouts are typically a fraction of the value of the benefit.
Note: The "benefits buyout" scam also goes by the name of "pension advances." A company will offer to "buy" monthly pension payments in exchange for a lump-sum payment. It's actually an unregulated, high-interest loan.
Pension poaching scams and dubious investment advice – A “financial adviser, planner or insurance agent” will tell the veteran that they are missing out on benefits, and wants to review investment portfolios. They will then want to put the veteran’s investments in a trust by transferring assets to a third party, often a family member, to appear to have fewer assets and to therefore be eligible for an additional pension."
– Be cautious if someone offers to move your assets around for you to qualify for VA pension. This type of scam is often directed toward Veterans and family members who do not actually qualify for VA pension. You could be required to repay these benefits to the government.
Examples of possible pension poaching scams:
- Organizations that cold call Veterans, charge money for assisting with a VA pension claim, and take credit card information from Veterans over the telephone.
- People who charge as much as $6,000 upfront to represent claimants before VA, with a percentage of any eventual back payment from VA as a portion of the ultimate fee.
- A common strategy recommended by some attorneys is to move excess assets into an irrevocable trust in order to obtain the VA benefit.
- Many insurance agents heavily market to assisted living facilities with the promise of obtaining benefits for Veterans. Assisted living facilities need to fill rooms. That combination can be detrimental to the family seeking care for their loved one.
Veteran affinity fraud – Veterans tend to trust other veterans over just about anyone else. And most of them live up to that trust. In some cases, however, veterans are hired as sales representatives, specifically to gain the trust of other veterans. These recently retired officers and NCOs then go back to their former colleagues and leverage the trust and the bond others have with them to form business relationships. In 99.9 percent of the cases, there is no fraud going on. Other times, there is, but the veteran may not be in on the game. Perhaps he just used his own influence to gather other veterans together in a seminar, and then turned it over to a guest speaker. In other cases, the veteran is in on the scam. And in still other cases, the con-man is lying about being a veteran.
Hotlines and othere impostors – Don’t provide personal or financial information, including Social Security number, driver’s license or bank or credit accounts, in unsolicited phone calls or during visits from self-described employees of the Department of Veterans Affairs; it’s fraudsters who are asking under the guise of supposed policy changes for dispensing drugs or receiving benefits. As do other federal agencies, the VA will mail official information. Another ongoing online swindle has crooks posing as soldiers about to be deployed or as a family member of a service member killed in action. They offer to sell cars at bargain prices, saying circumstances require them to sell their vehicle quickly. Upfront payment is requested (often by wire transfer), but the vehicle never arrives. Before providing any details, verify requests by calling the VA directly at 1-800-827-1000 or by visiting https://iris.custhelp.va.gov/app/answers/detail/a_id/1703
Romance scammers – These scammers often pose as active-duty personnel (especially officers) in an effort to lure patriotic women into responding to inevitable requests for money and/or they will ask you to join in phony business ventures.
Military.com: Can You Spot the Dating Scammer?
Test your knowledge about romance scammers.
Grandparents scam – Military and Veteran families are a popular bull’s-eye in this long-running scheme, which preys on loving grandparents. Swindlers get word of deployed soldiers from local newspaper stories and claim a problem while away on R&R, such as arrest or hospitalization and the scammer asks for upfront payment with a wire transfer or gift cards.
Records and Documents – Many "for profit" third-party commercial businesses charge for the service related records and documents. For profit businesses often advertise that they can expedite processing or delivery times for records and documents. These claims are false, because no increased levels of service or access to veteran records are provided to these commercial entities. By requesting these documents directly through the appropriate government agencies, you can eliminate the middle man, saving yourself time and money and prevent third-party access to your personal private information.
Job scams – Past military service appeals to many employers, and con artists use that to their advantage. On Internet job boards, fraudsters advertise phony positions, sometimes specifically trying to recruit veterans, in an effort to glean personal or financial information for identity theft.
Veterans' Assistance Commission of Madison County, IL
The Veterans’ Assistance Commission (VAC) provides needed services exclusively to Honorably Discharged Military Veterans and their families who reside in Madison County. The VAC works closely with local Veterans’ Service Organizations (VSOs), as well as local, state, and federal agencies, to ensure the rights to which each Veteran is entitled are preserved and granted. Services include Interim and/or Emergency Veterans' (Financial) Assistance, Administrative Case Work and advocacy-related services, Transition Center services, and VA medical-related transportation services (DAV Transportation Network).
The Veterans' Assistance Commission of Madison County provides services for approximately 25,000 Madison County Veterans.
THERE IS NO CHARGE FOR ANY VAC SERVICE RENDERED.
157 North Main Street, Suite 115
Edwardsville, IL 62025-1963
Illinois Attorney General
Consumer Protection Division protects Illinois consumers and businesses victimized by fraud, deception, and unfair business practices. The work of the Division is carried out by the following bureaus: Consumer Fraud Bureau, Charitable Trust Bureau, Franchise Bureau, Health Care Bureau, and Military and Veterans Rights Bureau.
Illinois Attorney General (Military and Veterans Rights Bureau)
The Attorney General's Military and Veterans Rights Bureau is dedicated to ensuring that veterans and active duty military service members receive the benefits they have earned. The bureau provides men and women with assistance, including case advocacy, health outreach and public advocacy forums. For more information on the services our office provides, please see the links below or contact the Military and Veterans Rights Bureau. Illinois Military and Veterans Rights Hotline 1-800-382-3000
Illinois Department of Veterans' Affairs
The mission of Illinois Department of Veterans’ Affairs (IDVA) is to empower veterans and their families to thrive. We do this by assisting them in navigating the system of federal state and local resources and benefits; by providing long-term health care for eligible veterans in our Veterans’ Homes; and by partnering with other agencies and non-profits to help veterans address education, mental health, housing, employment, and other challenges.
Illinois Office Inspector General
The Mission of the Inspector General is to prevent, detect and eliminate fraud, waste, abuse, misconduct and mismanagement in programs administered by Healthcare and Family Services and the Department of Human Services. The programs include Medicaid, KidCare, Temporary Assistance for Needy Families, food stamps, child care and other social services.
Veterans Crisis Line
The Veterans Crisis Line connects Veterans in crisis and their families and friends with qualified, caring Department of Veterans Affairs responders through a confidential toll-free hotline, online chat, or text. Veterans and their loved ones can call 1-800-273-8255 and Press 1, chat online, or send a text message to 838255 to receive confidential support 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year. Support for deaf and hard of hearing individuals is available.
In some instances, callers may experience difficulty connecting with the Veterans Crisis Line. If you have trouble reaching the call line, please click here to connect to chat, or text 838255 for immediate support.
Department of Veterans Affairs
To fulfill President Lincoln's promise "To care for him who shall have borne the battle, and for his widow, and his orphan" by serving and honoring the men and women who are America's veterans.
Department of Veterans Affairs, Identity Theft Protection
Department of Veterans Affairs, Office of General Counsel
The mission of the Office of General Counsel (OGC) is to identify and meet the legal needs of the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA). Its primary objective is to ensure the just and faithful execution of the laws, regulations and policies that the Secretary has responsibility for administering, and by so doing enable the Department to accomplish its mission of service to our Nation's veterans.
Individuals and organizations are available to help you file a VA compensation or pension claim free of charge. A searchable list of VA-accredited representatives including Veterans Service Organizations, agents, and attorneys is available at the VA Office of General Counsel website. https://www.va.gov/ogc/apps/accreditation/index.asp
Department of Veterans Affairs, Office of Inspector General
To serve veterans and the public by conducting effective oversight of the programs and operations of the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) through independent audits, inspections, and investigations.
Social Security Administration, Office of the Inspector General
Social Security Administration, Office of the Inspector General
The Office of the Inspector General (OIG) is directly responsible for meeting the statutory mission of promoting economy, efficiency, and effectiveness in the administration of Social Security Administration (SSA) programs and operations and to prevent and detect fraud, waste, abuse, and mismanagement in such programs and operations.
Federal Trade Commission, Identity Theft
IdentityTheft.gov is the federal government’s one-stop resource for identity theft victims. The site provides streamlined checklists and sample letters to guide you through the recovery process.
Federal Bureau of Investigations (FBI), Common Fraud Schemes
Some of the most common scams that the FBI encounters, as well as tips to help prevent you from being victimized.
U.S. Postal Inspection Service
The mission of the U.S. Postal Inspection Service is to support and protect the U.S. Postal Service and its employees, infrastructure, and customers; enforce the laws that defend the nation’s mail system from illegal or dangerous use; and ensure public trust in the mail.
U.S. Food & Drug Administration, Health Fraud Scams
Health fraud scams refer to products that claim to prevent, treat, or cure diseases or other health conditions, but are not proven safe and effective for those uses. Health fraud scams waste money and can lead to delays in getting proper diagnosis and treatment. They can also cause serious or even fatal injuries.
National Criminal Justice Reference Service (NCJRS) Fraud Awareness
Established in 1972, the National Criminal Justice Reference Service (NCJRS) is a federally funded resource offering justice and drug-related information to support research, policy, and program development worldwide.
National Association of Insurance Commissioners (NAIC)
The National Association of Insurance Commissioners (NAIC) is the U.S. standard-setting and regulatory support organization created and governed by the chief insurance regulators from the 50 states, the District of Columbia and five U.S. territories.
North American Securities Administrators Association (NASAA)
Organized in 1919, the North American Securities Administrators Association (NASAA) is the oldest international organization devoted to investor protection.
BBB: Military and Veterans Initiative
We seek to equip those who serve, have served, and their families with the tools they need to navigate an ever changing and often complex marketplace. We offer financial literacy trainings and tips, fraud alerts, and scam prevention programming through our partners and network of BBB facilitators across North America.
Serve Our Seniors
Serve Our Seniors is an initiative of the North American Securities Administrators Association, the voice of state and provincial securities regulators.
AARP Fraud Watch Network
The Fraud Watch Network is free of charge for everyone – members, non-members, and people of all ages. You'll learn how to shop and bank safely, create strong passwords, protect yourself from identity theft and scams, use social media risk-free, and more.
AARP and U.S. Postal Service: Operation Protect Veterans
AARP and the U.S. Postal Inspection Service have launched Operation Protect Veterans to help raise awareness of common scams targeting veterans.
Identity Theft Protection Services
Many companies refer to their services as identity theft protection services. In fact, no service can protect you from having your personal information stolen. What these companies offer are monitoring and recovery services. Monitoring services watch for signs that an identity thief may be using your personal information. Recovery services help you deal with the effects of identity theft after it happens.
Credit Reporting Agencies (CRAs)
ScamAwareness.org is a non-profit organization dedicated to educating Americans about scams.
Charitable Giving Fraud Prevention:
There are really two levels of fraud you have to worry about: The first is agent-level fraud. This occurs when you have a legitimate charity that hired a bad, dishonest agent or representative. The agent then pockets some or all cash donations, and may launder other donations or misdirect them to his own bank account.
In other cases, the whole organization may be corrupt. You can have a hard-working, honest representative, but the charity’s executive director may be corrupt or incompetent. She could be stealing money from the organization, or she may be a weak executive who has failed to implement the necessary accounting controls within the organization.
To guard against agent-level fraud, give directly to the organizations, rather than via an agent, if at all possible. For example, a credit card donation on a secure website of a reputable and well-known charity is better and safer than a cash donation, handed to an agent you may barely even know.
To guard against organizational fraud, stick to charities you are already familiar with – particularly agencies whose effective work you’ve seen first-hand.
Charitable Giving Resources:
Charity Navigator is the largest and most-utilized charity evaluator in America. The organization helps guide intelligent giving by evaluating the Financial Health, Accountability and Transparency of over 9,000 charities and provides basic data on the rest of the 1.8 million U.S. nonprofits. Charity Navigator accepts no advertising or donations from the organizations it evaluates, ensuring unbiased evaluations, nor does it charge the public for this trusted data.
GuideStar for the most complete, up-to-date nonprofit data available. GuideStar gathers, organizes, and distributes information about U.S nonprofits. It sounds simple, but in reality it’s an enormous undertaking. The nonprofit sector is huge and complex, and our mission is to revolutionize philanthropy by providing information that advances transparency, enables users to make better decisions, and encourages charitable giving.
Better Business Bureau (BBB), Wise Giving Alliance
The BBB Wise Giving Alliance helps donors make informed giving decisions and promotes high standards of conduct among organizations that solicit contributions from the public. It produces reports about national charities, evaluating them against comprehensive Standards for Charity Accountability, and publishes a magazine, the Wise Giving Guide, three times a year.