How to avoid military scams this Memorial Day
Thursday, May 24, 2012, 3:29:49 PM
Memorial Day is a time to celebrate the men and women who are serving our country, and remember and honor those who fought to defend the land of the free in the past. However, scam artists also see this holiday as a prime opportunity to scam military families and veterans, according to the Better Business Bureau (BBB). While older veterans are likely to fall victim to scams surrounding the Department of Veterans Affairs and other services, even those who are not in the service might get scammed into donating money to a fake military charity.
"The unique lifestyle of our service members makes them prime targets for scammers,” said Brenda Linnington, Director of BBB Military Line. “It’s imperative that we educate our service members and ensure that the support we give to them equals the effort they make every day on behalf of us.”
Luckily, there are some ways military members, veterans and their families and friends can avoid being the target of these unscrupulous individuals looking to take advantage.Veterans Administration scams
One scam to look out for involves an individual contacting elderly veterans, claiming they are from the Veterans Administration and asking for credit card numbers, bank or other personal and financial information so they can "update records with the VA," the BBB reports. No one should give out any personal identification numbers like social security, bank account, military identification or credit card numbers to anyone who contacts them by phone or email, the organization reports.
Veterans may also be subject to scams that try to convince them to transfer their assets into an irrevocable trust.Taking advantage of military families and spouses
Spouses and other family members of servicemembers may be vulnerable to scams. The BBB reports that one scheme to look out for occurs when a person tries to sell false security systems or similar items to families whose loved one is deployed, claiming the servicemembers ordered it to protect his or her family. The FBI reports that no one should ever buy from an unfamiliar company, since legitimate businesses always understand when a consumer wants more information about their company.Selling fake military lodging and benefits
Scam artists may also take advantage of certain military benefits, charging troops for services they could get for free or less expensively, or offering "instant approval" military loans that often have high interest rates and hidden fees. Other scams may advertise military lodging
and housing online with special discounts and benefits, only to cheat the servicemember out of a security deposit or other cost.
The FBI reports that warning signs of this type of fraud may include claims like "you must act now or the offer won't be good," or winning a "free gift" that you have to pay some type of fee for.Donating to illegitimate military charities
Scammers are also targeting non-military members who may feel inspired to donate to a military charity around this time of year, the BBB reports.
"Too many solicitors that fail to meet BBB standards call and say they help veterans, service members or their families, and little of the money donated will serve that purpose," said Art Taylor, president and CEO of the BBB Wise Giving Alliance.
He recommends donors always check www.give.org to make sure the group they are considering donating to meets the BBB's charity standards before agreeing to a donation. The FBI recommends always asking for written material about any offer or charity, and waiting until you receive it to decide whether it is legitimate. You should also do some research before donating to find out what percentage of your donation actually goes to the cause.
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