For those of us who have served, it is especially upsetting to have unscrupulous scam artists use our patriotism and concern for veterans to pick our pockets. And Veterans Day, along with Memorial Day, is prime time for scammers to spread their nets.
The Fraud Watch Network suggests you be aware of the following veterans-related scams:
- VA IMPOSTERS — Don't provide personal or financial information if you receive unsolicited phone calls or visits from self-described employees of the Department of Veterans Affairs. It's a scam. The VA, like other government agencies, uses the mail and does not initiate personal contact. Verify requests by calling this VA toll-free phone number — 1-800-827-1000.
- FAKE CHARITIES — Bogus charities that claim to benefit veterans are hot buttons when targeting patriotic older donors. Scammers often use sound-alike name or "organizations" to solicit funds. Before donating, check the charity's name and reputation at the Wise Giving Alliance (operated by the Better Business Bureau), Charity Navigator or GuideStar. You can also contact the state agency that regulates charities where you live.
- BENEFITS SCAMS — Some promise veterans lump sum cash payouts for pensions and future benefits, but typically pay a fraction of their actual worth. Others are self-proclaimed "veterans advocates" who promise additional VA benefits by transferring retirement assets into an irrevocable trust that's unsuitable for many older vets. And remember, the VA does not charge for services like filing pension or other claims or getting military records, but scammer do! If you are considering such programs, have a lawyer review the terms.
- GRANDPARENTS SCAM — Military families are a target for this long-running scheme, which preys on loving grandparents. Scammers get word of deployed soldiers from local news stories and claim they have a problem while on R&R, such as an arrest or hospitalization. Check family sources before you send any money. Chances are it's a scam — and it has cost many family members dearly over the years.
- MILITARY LOANS — They promise "guaranteed loans" and "same day cash" to active-duty personnel and, in some cases veterans, but deliver sky-high interest rates and hidden fees. What makes these loans especially disturbing is that military personnel may not need them at all since they have financial protections, including a ban on home foreclosure while they are serving.
AN IMPORTANT REMINDER TO ALL VETERANS — NO MATTER WHEN YOU SERVED. If you have never talked to the director of your local Veterans Bureau to find out what benefits you or members of your family may be entitled to, chances are you may have missed out on any number of opportunities that were — and possibly still are — available to you. A veteran is always a veteran. Check it out.
And have a great Veterans Day!
Beau Weisman, Editor