Carson City, NV – Nevada Attorney General Aaron D. Ford wants Nevadans to be aware of the warning signs of various scams targeting military members, veterans and their families during Military Family Month.
“Members of the military and their families have sacrificed much for this country, but there are those who unfortunately want to exploit those who have served,” said AG Ford. “These types of scams may target their hard-earned benefits or may be specifically designed to take advantage of the military way of life. Some of these are twists on schemes targeting civilians. My Office of Military Legal Assistance is here to help provide guidance to military members, including learning about scams and ways to avoid them.”
Common Scams Targeting Military Families
One way that scammers may target veterans or military members is by posing as fellow veterans or organizations that support them in order to gain their trust; this is known as an affinity scheme.
One common form of this type of scheme is through a fake charity scam. These fake charities take advantage of donors’ willingness to help members of the military. Their communications may adopt similar names as legitimate, well-known charities. They may also take the form of sham political action committees (PACs), which claim to be supporting veterans or other similar political causes but use the money for something else or keep the money for those running it.
Other types of affinity scams involve those offering health care services for veterans or active-duty personnel and their families. They may contact military members and their families claiming to offer assistance related to COVID-19 or other medical services. The scammer may also be an imposter posing as a member of the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), asking to update a person’s Social Security numbers or other records. This is really a ploy to gain personal information.
Scammers may also offer discounts to military members for cars, electronics or other products that require installments. While the products may appear to be discounted, the items might carry a hefty interest rate, or the price of the item may be inflated beyond normal retail value. Still other scammers may ask for payments by wire, and the products may never arrive once the payment is sent.
Some scams may target families looking for housing quickly near a military base. These types of scammers may pose as real estate agents and post fake ads for properties, sometimes offering incentives for military families. Often, they ask for fees and deposits up front, sight unseen. The potential renters then end up with no place to live and lost money on the deposits.
Tips for Avoiding Scams
Overall, staying vigilant and taking the time to do research before sending money or sharing your personal information can help you and your family avoid scams. The Office of the Nevada Attorney General Bureau of Consumer Protection also offers the following tips:
- Do not give in to high-pressure donation tactics for charities or high-pressure sales tactics for goods or services. Legitimate organizations and businesses will work on your timetable;
- Before donating to a charity or PAC, ask how many service members the organization helps, details on the organization’s mission and how much money it spends on programs rather than on overhead and fundraising;
- Use an internet search engine to search for the charity. The same is true for businesses you are unfamiliar with, or any real estate company or other seller with whom you are planning to work. Find out if others have reported any problems with the business and if the business or charity is established and legitimate. Check on the credentials of investment advisers;
- Do not make payments or donations by wire transfer or gift card. In general, these types of payments should be treated as cash; once they are gone, they are hard to trace and cannot be recovered;
- Do not give sensitive information such as credit cards, account numbers or Social Security numbers over the phone, via text, or via email unless you are completely certain of the other person’s identity; and
If you have any questions about your VA benefits, consult with VA-accredited representatives to assist. You can search for attorneys, claims agents and veterans service organizations accredited by the VA on a searchable database.
If you have been a victim of a scam, you can file a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission and the Office of the Nevada Attorney General. You can also file a police report with local law enforcement, particularly if you had physical interaction with the scammer. You may also learn more information at the Office of Military Legal Assistance. Include as much information as possible with your complaint.