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Veterans Scams: The Big 4 (Including 3 You’ve Never Heard Of)

With the help of federal investigators, senior advocates and #WiseCharity Forever Young Veterans, I reveal the most aggressive scams targeting our retired service members.

You can boil them down to the ‘Big Four.’ They come after veterans, their families and supporters no matter their age, military conflict or era.

  1. FAKE VETERANS CHARITIES. Sham veterans charities are overly aggressive. They pressure you to donate. According to AARP, they often lure people with the promise of a prize or sweepstakes if they donate. That’s illegal. A prize is called a “prize” for a reason: you don’t pay to collect one. They may even send you a ‘thank you’ note for previous donations you never made, trying to confuse you into believing you’ve been a regular donor.

Legitimate veterans charities like #WiseCharity Forever Young Veterans will never pressure you to donate. They will be registered with your state’s charity regulator (in Tennessee, Arkansas and Mississippi, that is your state’s secretary of state’s office). Their collections and how much of them go directly to the charity’s mission are a matter of public record and searchable either through or through the Better Business Bureau’s Wise Giving Alliance.

“Scammers will target veterans because of their servant spirit and their willingness to give,” said Forever Young Veterans President/CEO Diane Hight. “We had a WWII veteran lose $60,000 to a man who befriended him on the phone,” Hight said. “He kept telling the veteran that he had won $1 million, but he needed $1,000 here and there to get it to him. However, the amounts kept getting larger and larger. His family tried to intervene, but the veteran said, ‘It’s not true.  He’s my friend!’  The bank president and the police told him it was a scam. He refused to believe them because he felt this man truly cared about him. His family asked me to talk to him because he loved me so much, and they thought I could get through to him. Finally, his daughter sent him to temporarily live with a daughter in another state, and they threw his phone away. This was the only way to get it to end. They found out the calls were coming from Jamaica.” 

2. COVID-19 VACCINE CLINICAL TRIAL OFFERS. Investigators with the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) have alerted me to scammers offering to get you into vaccine research trials because of your veteran status. The give-away is they require a fee. The FTC said legitimate COVID-19 clinical trials will never charge patient volunteers a fee. Some studies actually pay the volunteers to participate — but never the other way around.

3. OVERPAID UTILITY BILL ROBOCALLS. Another one the FTC is tracking: automated robocalls targeting the elderly and veterans. The calls, live or recorded, say you overpaid your power bill. They insist you qualify for a cash refund or discount on your future bills. You’re lured either to provide personal information on the spot or to press 1 and link to someone else who requests that information. Your power company will never contact you this way. If you really overpaid your bill, it would be automatically credited and disclosed on your billing statement.

4. VETERAN STUDENT LOAN SCAMS. These are offers claiming they can reduce or wipe out student loan debt for veterans. They’re made to appear as if they are from legitimate lenders or government agencies. They ask you for an upfront fee — that’s the rub. The FTC said it is illegal to require a fee before delivering on a promise of reducing student loan debt. Consult your bank or a licensed, credentialed financial advisor on what options you may have for student debt relief, including federal government breaks tied to the pandemic.

It’s a shame I even have to share this information. Like I always say: as long as there is sin, scammers have job security. It means nothing to them to exploit someone’s service to country in the name of a cowardly cash-grab.

Copyright 2021 Wise Choices TM. All rights reserved.

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