As Veterans Day approaches, your Better Business Bureau (BBB) urges service members to keep an eye out for scams
Better Business Bureau
It has long been recognized that military families and veterans are at increased risk of being targeted by scammers. The steady paychecks and relative youth of active-duty military personnel may make them particularly vulnerable.
Unfortunately, aspects of a service member’s job often make them more vulnerable to scams. Perhaps most importantly, they have a guaranteed and steady income that scammers would love to have access to. They are also frequently deployed and move around often, which makes staying on top of red flags in bills and credit reports more difficult. Additionally, new service members are often young and financially inexperienced, and these qualities may attract scammers. Despite the stereotype of the elderly scam victim, millennials are actually the most likely to lose money to scams.
Individuals who self-identified as being active-duty military personnel, veterans or military spouses represented 8.6% of reports to BBB Scam Tracker in 2017. These individuals may be more susceptible when exposed to a scam, with 17.5% reporting losses, compared to 15.6% of non-military individuals. More striking is the median loss of $280, nearly 27% higher than the non-military median loss of $220.
The BBB Risk Index measures risk by exposure (how likely you are to be targeted), susceptibility (your odds of losing money when exposed), and monetary loss (if you do lose money, how big the losses will be).
According to the BBB Risk Index, these are the top three riskiest scams for military families and veterans.
- Employment. Victims of employment scams are led to believe they are applying or have just been hired for a promising new career while they have, in fact, given personal information or money to scammers for “training” or “equipment.” In another variation, the victim may be “overpaid” with a fake check and asked to wire back the difference. Remember, a reputable employer will give you the equipment you need; they won’t give you a check to deposit and subsequently wire elsewhere in order to purchase your needed supplies. Don’t be embarrassed; this can happen to anyone, and it does. For more tips on avoiding employment scams, click here.
- Home Improvement. In this con, door-to-door solicitors offer quick, low-cost repairs and then either take payments without returning, do shoddy work or “find” issues that dramatically raise the price. Things to beware of are high upfront payments, cash-only deals, high-pressure sales tactics, “handshake” deals without a contract, and on-site inspections. For more on home improvement scams, check out bbb.org/homeimprovementscams.
- Online Purchases. These cons often involve purchases and sales, often on eBay, Craigslist, Kijiji or other direct seller-to buyer sites. Scammers may pretend to purchase an item only to send a bogus check and ask for a refund of the “accidental” overpayment. In other cases, the scammer will simply never deliver the goods. An unreasonably low price should be a warning sign. Proceed with caution, even if there’s a realistic sounding story behind the price point. Pay for purchases through a secure payment method like a credit card. If a seller asks you to wire money and you’ve never met the person or seen the product, you should decline. Scammers copy links, images, and text from legitimate companies. When in doubt, go to the purchasing site separately, log into your account, and make sure the purchase information is accurate. In 2017, online purchase scams took over the top spot as the most risky scam reported.
BBB Institute of Marketplace Trust runs the BBB Military Line program to help military families and veterans avoid scams and fraud. BBB Military Line is tailored to military consumers and their families and provides consumer education resources both online and through local outreach. To learn more, visit bbb.org/military.
If you or someone that you know has been affected by a scam, report it to BBB Scam Tracker to warn others. You never know, your report could help save someone a lot of money and prevent a big headache.