Veterans are twice as likely to be subjected to a scam as the general population, the Senate Committee on Aging heard in November this year. This statistic is not surprising since a 2017 AARP survey showed that 78 percent of veterans were targeted by scammers who tried to exploit their service history. Any member of the population can be a target of a scam and there is no denying that it is an issue that needs to be addressed, particularly amongst the senior and veteran population. Since 2012, veterans and their families have lost $405 million to these schemes. Meanwhile, seniors are commonly targeted by Medicare scams or financial fraud and it is estimated that they lose around $3billion annually. As the issue takes the front line on the senate table, a lot is being said about the lack of education in the veteran community on the common scams they are currently being targeted by- and how to get support if they need it.
Veteran Employment Scams
According to estimates by the BBB Metro New York, veterans report losing twice as much to employment scams as civilians do. Based on the study, military members reported a median loss of $2,460- more than twice that of civilians while they also lost 32 percent more than all consumers did in 2018. With numbers like these, it is no surprise that employment scams are listed as one of the top scams affecting the veteran community in New York, and the country today.
A common tactic is to target the thousands of past military personnel currently seeking employment beyond the force, and attempting to reintegrate into normal life. By hinting at possible job offers or offering recruitment services in exchange for veterans sharing sensitive military records and a small fee, scammers are able to feed on the struggle faced by veterans in securing employment. Alternatively, there are fake recruitment websites such as those created by the hacking group Tortoiseshell, that asks users to download an app that allows them to access personal information with the help of spyware and malware. The website address is often quite similar to legitimate employment aid websites like the Chamber of Commerce Foundation, which helps ex-military personnel find jobs.
Disability And Pension Benefit Scams
Many of the country’s military return home with life-changing injuries and experiences, which require assistance to help them live a normal life. With the veteran community demographic slowly drifting towards a younger population, the nature of the frauds is adjusting to suit this such as targeting their health benefits. Many veteran families are under increasing financial pressure, a situation that scammers are hoping to take advantage of. For 54 percent of veteran spouses and 49 percent of military spouses, financial stress is listed as the top military family issue. In addition, for those actively serving families, less than 50 percent of them have more than $5,000 in savings, according to AARP’s Military Family Lifestyle survey.
Using these well-known facts, scammers offer money upfront in exchange to buy out future disability or pension payments. They may also offer their help in completing and filing the needed paperwork to claim the benefits afforded to veterans. When it comes to financial aid, many organizations offer grants aimed at veterans and their supporting families, continuing their education or provide personal loans for veterans with a substandard financial record. Veterans should also know that the application for veteran benefits is completely free. If you do require assistance to fill and file your VA benefits forms, be sure to check for their accreditation through the VA. This can be either your local state Bar Association or the National Association of Personal Financial Advisors. In New York, the New York State of Veteran Affairs should be able to answer any queries while individual country organizations like Rockland’s County Veterans Service Agency offer advice on maximizing the benefits claimed and clarifying the process.
The Veteran Services Phone Call Scam
Recently, veterans in New York locations like Rockland and Saratoga Springs have been receiving calls and voicemails from individuals claiming to be from veterans services. They claim that the veteran’s profile has been flagged for receipt of potential benefits and request that supply certain personal details such as social security number, bank account details, and date of births to confirm eligibility. This information is then used to perpetrate theft of assets, identity theft or sold to other individuals to do the same. To avoid falling prey to this, veterans should be on the lookout for telltale signs of phone and text scams and pick up on the ingenuity of calls requesting personal or financial information over the phone right away. Any calls and call back numbers should be noted and reported to the Federal Communications Commission.
Finally, it is highly recommended that veteran consumers get to know the benefits they are entitled to as a part of their national remuneration package. The continuing ignorance of these has proved to be a key vulnerability point for veterans. In August, Governor Cuomo signed the Pension Prevention Poaching Act in a bid to protect veterans and seniors from being exploited by individuals/organizations trying to claim compensation in exchange for helping veterans claim benefits they are already rightfully entitled to. While the benefits and veteran services do exist, the lack of knowledge about them continues to seriously hinder progress when it comes to keeping the veteran community safe from fraudsters.