Sue McConnell, Sr. VP
For Immediate Release – May 24, 2012 - Memorial Day is a time to honor those who serve and to remember those who have died in war. But sadly, it has also become a key opportunity for scammers to target those who are serving or have served their nation, especially elderly veterans. BBB is urging consumers and donors to be on the lookout for deals that seem too good to be true, and for disreputable charities.
“The unique lifestyle of our service members makes them prime targets for scammers,” notes 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.” Linnington said scams can include those that target service personnel and their families directly, but also those that appear to be helping military members via charities.
“As Americans, and as the children, spouses and parents of service members, it is almost inconceivable to think that there are con artists targeting active and retired service members, but it’s happening every day” explained David Weiss, president of the BBB Serving Greater Cleveland. “Service members have a regular paycheck, frequently without a lot to spend it on, so when they’re stateside, they’re easy prey for shady merchants selling everything from used cars to bogus investments. Those that need money frequently fall prey to predatory lenders.”
“Donors should also be aware that there are a number of questionable charities claiming to help soldiers and veterans that actually provide little or no support to the cause,” noted Weiss. “Charities, like businesses, can also be checked out through BBB.”
Among the scams to watch out for:
• Email or other contacts claiming to be from the Veterans Administration, contacting veterans to say they need to update their credit card, bank or other financial records with the VA;
• Charging service members for services they could get for free or less expensively elsewhere, such as military records;
• Fraudulent investment schemes that convince veterans to transfer their assets into an irrevocable trust;
• “Instant approval” military loans (“no credit check,” “all ranks approved”) that can 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;
• Trying to sell things like security systems to spouses of deployed military personnel by claiming the service member ordered it to protect his or her family;
• Selling stolen vehicles at low prices by claiming to be soldiers who need to sell fast because they’ve been deployed;
• Individuals posing as government contractors recruiting veterans, who ask for a copy of the job applicants’ passport (which contains a lot of personal information);
• Posing on online dating services as a lonely service member in a remote part of Iraq or Afghanistan, and then asking for money to be wired to a third party for some emergency.
BBB advises service members, veterans and all consumers never to give personal identification information (Social Security, bank account, military identification or credit card numbers, etc.) to anyone who contacts you by phone or e-mail, and to be wary of any solicitations that involve purchasing something or transferring money. Because financial readiness equals mission readiness, the BBB Military Line Program offers members of all branches of the military valuable, free resources to help them protect their finances and identities, including online scam alerts, e-newsletter and the Kiplinger-BBB Personal Finance Guide for Military Families. These resources and many more can be found at www.clevelandbbb.org/military-line.