CROMWELL, Conn. — Memorial Day, the unofficial start of summer, is also a time to honor those who have lost their lives for our country.
Unfortunately, scammers use this time of year to take advantage of victims in various schemes with a patriotic or military approach.
When looking at the military community as a whole we see that veterans are most often targeted or exposed to scams, followed by military spouses. Activity-duty military are targeted the least, but are the most susceptible to falling for scams and likely to lose the most money.
"Many don't have time to do research, are often on the move, or are young, new consumers," said Better Business Bureau Serving Connecticut's Director of Communications, Kristen Johnson.
Last year, the average loss reported by active duty military was $500, compared to $200 reported by veterans. In 2022, over half of the active-duty military that reported being targeted by a scam lost money. That's 29% higher than the general population’s susceptibility, according to the 2022 BBB Risk Report. Active-duty military incurred an average loss of nearly $500, compared to civilians, who lost $160 on average last year, a 200% difference. BBB Serving CT has received 16 scam reports from our state's military community (active-duty, military spouse, & veteran) since last May.
BBB warns of the following scams that are typically directed at service members:
High-priced military loans - Advertisements for loans that promise a guarantee, instant approval, or no credit check often come with hidden fees and extremely high-interest rates. Remember that legitimate lenders will never guarantee a loan before you apply, and loans that require an upfront fee are likely a scam.
Veterans’ benefits buyout plans - This buyout plan will offer a cash payment in exchange for a disabled veteran’s future benefits or pension payments. The cash amount is only about 30-40% of what the veteran is entitled to. These buyout plans can be structured in several ways, so research thoroughly before signing anything over.
Fake rental properties - Stolen photos of legitimate rental properties are used in advertisements that promise military discounts and other incentives. Service members will have to pay a fee via wire transfer for security payments or a key to the property – in the end, they will receive nothing.
Misleading car sales - Websites posting classified ads will offer false discounts for military personnel or claim to be from soldiers who must sell their vehicles fast since deployment. Upfront fees will be required via wire transfer, or the vehicle will have problems after purchase.
Expensive life insurance policies - Military members are often the targets of high-pressured sales pitches that offer unnecessary, expensive life insurance policies. Solicitors may make false statements regarding the benefits that these policies offer.
Tips to avoid scams:
Do your research - Get as much information as possible about a business or charity before paying or donating.
Never wire transfer money to someone you don’t know -Money sent via wire transfer is practically impossible to track. Pay or donate by credit card whenever possible since you can dispute charges more easily.
Protect your computer - Don’t click on the links within unsolicited emails. Don’t enter personal information on unfamiliar websites.
Put an Active Duty alert on your credit reports when deployed Doing so will minimize the risk of identity theft because creditors and businesses cannot issue or grant credit until verifying identity.
Tips before making a charitable donation:
Get the charity’s exact name - There are over 28,000 veterans and military service organizations in the U.S. Make certain the one soliciting you is the one you have in mind. Mistaken identity is a common problem.
Watch out for excessive pressure to donate - Honest charities won’t pressure to make an on-the-spot gift decision. Donors always have the choice to find out more about the charity so they can confidently give.
Check the website for basics - Information on the charity’s mission, programs, and finances should be easily accessible on its website. Look for a report at Give.org, the BBB Wise Giving Alliance website.
For more information:
BBB's Military Line provides free resources, such as financial literacy information, access to BBB services, Scam Alerts, and complaint and dispute resolution for all branches of the U.S. military.
Report scams to BBB Scam Tracker: BBB.org/scamtracker.