Beware of Scams Targeting Military Members
Active-duty military members, their families, and military veterans deserve our gratitude for their service to the country. Unfortunately, scammers feel differently. While there is no shortage of financial scams targeting many demographics, scams aimed at service members and their families are especially egregious. According to the most recent information available from the Federal Trade Commission, the median loss to military scam victims is $894. Here are several common scams targeting military members and tips for how to avoid them.
Because of how often they need to relocate, military members and their families are frequent targets of rental housing scams. Scammers posing as real estate agents will post online photos and details of rental housing near military bases. They’ll often promise a military discount and additional incentives, too. When an interested party calls, they create a false sense of urgency and ask the caller to wire deposits and other funds up-front to hold the property. When the renter arrives at their new location, they find they’ve been scammed out of money and don’t have a place to stay. As a general rule, never mail or wire funds to hold housing you haven’t seen for yourself — or someone you trust hasn’t seen for you.
Lonely Hearts Scams
Being on deployment can be lonely, especially if you don’t have that special someone waiting at home. Scammers know this, which is why romance scams are some of the most common targeting military members. Specific details will vary, but scammers generally start by creating fake online dating profiles designed to attract military members’ attention. Once they establish contact, things move very quickly. Before long, they’re asking the service member to wire money so they can afford to come for a visit. Of course, there’s no love connection here. Once the scammer receives the money, the dating profile disappears, and you’re left broken-hearted — and broke.
Be very careful when meeting someone online. Before things get too involved, do a reverse image search with the dating profile photo to see if it comes up as a stock photo or if it’s been pulled from someone else’s social media. Also, take things slow and never send money or gifts to someone you haven’t met in person.
Payroll Phishing Scams
Everyone wants to get paid on time, which is how scammers will try to steal service members’ personal financial information. The service member or spouse will receive a phone call, email or text claiming to be from the Defense Finance and Accounting Service (DFAS). The message will say something engineered to get the person’s Social Security number and other personal identifying information. The message usually says something non-specific but believable about “computer problems” and prompts the user to re-enter their information.
To avoid these types of scams, never give out your information over the phone, and don’t click on links within emails or texts. If you have questions or concerns about your MyPay account, navigate to the website independently to check on things.
Veterans’ Benefit Scams
The military benefits veterans are entitled to leave them vulnerable to scammers. Several veterans benefit scams have made the rounds recently, including:
- Offering cash up-front in exchange for future pension or disability payments
- Charging a fee for access to non-existent “secret” benefit programs
- Charging veterans to access their service records or government forms
As always, if something sounds suspicious or too good to be true, it probably is. Never give out your information over the phone or online. And you don’t have to pay for records or forms. Your service records and any forms you may need going forward are available from the Department of Veterans Affairs or the National Archives.
Fake Charity Scams
Scammers know that veterans and the public at large are more likely to support charities with a military affiliation. So, they make up legitimate-sounding names and start collecting the money from unsuspecting donors. Often, they will combine military or veterans with other common causes, such as “Veterans Fighting Breast Cancer.” If you receive a solicitation for funds from any unfamiliar charities or nonprofit organizations, be sure to verify them before donating any money. Charity Navigator is an excellent source to help you research an organization’s authenticity.