Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Veterans Day honors those who have served, BBB warns of scams

Whether they're fresh out of the military and looking for work or retired and receiving well-deserved benefits, veterans are, far too often, targets of fraudulent schemes.

Unfortunately, scammers try to profit from the fact that some former service members are young and inexperienced or collect monthly Social Security checks. In an effort to honor past members of the U.S. Armed Forces this Veterans Day, Better Business Bureau of Minnesota and North Dakota offers some tips to protect those who have served our country.

"Veterans Day is the occasion where we honor citizens that have served in the military," said Dana Badgerow, president and CEO of BBB of Minnesota and North Dakota in a news release. "But we must strive that day and every day to do as much as we can to prevent this group of individuals — and their families — from falling prey to fraud."

Here are some of the scams Better Business Bureau sees most often targeting veterans and/or their families:

• Scammers posing as the Veterans Administration (VA) and contacting veterans to say they need to update their credit card, bank or other personal/financial information.

• Charging veterans for services they could get for free, such as copies of their service records or help signing up for military benefits.

• Fraudulent investment schemes that convince veterans to transfer their assets into an irrevocable trust.

• Offering "instant approval" military loans ("no credit check," "all ranks approved") that often have high interest rates and hidden fees.

• Advertising housing online with military discounts and incentives, and then bilking service personnel out of the security deposit.

• Selling things like security systems to spouses of deployed personnel by claiming the servicemember ordered it to protect his or her family.

• Posting fake employment ads, specifically asking for veterans, and then charging an upfront fee for "training." The scammer usually asks for the fee via wire transfer or a prepaid debit card.

• Posing as government contractors recruiting veterans and then asking for a copy of the job applicant's passport (which contains important personal information).

In addition, scammers sometimes actually pretend to be veterans, just to garner their would-be victims' trust or sympathy. Here are four additional scams designed to make people think or believe they're assisting veterans:

• Selling stolen vehicles at low prices by claiming to be soldiers who need to sell fast because they've been deployed overseas.

• Posting bogus "house for rent" ads (using real online listings of homes for sale), and telling prospective tenants that they aren't able to show the home in person because they're deployed overseas. The scammer then asks for a deposit and first month's rent to be wired to them.

• Creating fake profiles on online dating services where they pose as lonely servicemembers serving in Iraq or Afghanistan, and then asking for money to be wired to a third party for some claimed emergency.

• Bogus charities using names that are similar to more well-known ones. Many of these faux charities include the same words in different order to give them the semblance of legitimacy. Ask for the charity to send you information about its mission, finances, location, etc. and go to to do your research with BBB's Wise Giving Alliance.

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