Memorial Day is just around the corner; now is the time to honor those who lost their lives for our country. Unfortunately, crooks target victims using a variety of ploys with a patriotic or military approach. In 2020, active duty members lost more than $ 190,000 to scammers across the United States, according to reports generated by BBB Scam Tracker. Veterans across the country have been hit even harder, with more than $ 270,000 lost due to fraudulent business practices.
BBB advises consumers to beware of the following scams which typically target military personnel, their families, and potential donors.
Expensive military loans. Advertisements for loans that promise collateral, instant approval, or no credit checks will often come with hidden fees and extremely high interest rates. Keep in mind that legitimate lenders will never guarantee a loan until you apply, and loans that require an upfront fee are likely a scam.
Profit buyback plans. These plans offer a cash payment in exchange for future benefits or pension payments from a disabled veteran; however, the cash amount is only about 30-40% of what the veteran is entitled to. These buyout plans can be structured in a number of different ways, so do your research thoroughly before signing anything.
False rental properties. Stolen photos of legitimate rental properties are used in advertisements that promise military discounts and other incentives. Service members pay a fee by wire transfer for security payments or a key to the property; in the end, they don’t get anything.
Deceptive car sales. Websites that run classifieds offer bogus discounts to military personnel or claim to be from soldiers who need to sell their vehicles quickly before they are deployed. Once the “seller” receives the initial charge, they disappear.
Expensive life insurance policies. The military is often the target of pressurized sales arguments that offer expensive life insurance policies. Lawyers can make false claims regarding the benefits of these policies.
Tips for avoiding scams:
Do your research. Get as much information as possible about a business or charity before you pay or donate. A good start to your research would be to take a look at a company’s BBB business profile and / or see if the BBB has a report on the charity. It is never wise to make a decision under high pressure and uninformed.
Never transfer money to someone you don’t know. Money sent by wire transfer is virtually impossible to track. Pay or donate by credit card where possible, so you can more easily dispute charges if necessary.
Protect your computer. Do not click on links contained in unsolicited emails. Do not enter personal information on unknown websites. Make sure you have updated antivirus software installed and use a firewall at all times.
Put an Active-Duty alert on your credit reports once deployed. This will minimize the risk of identity theft as creditors and businesses cannot issue or extend credit until they have verified the identity.
Tips before you make a charitable donation
Get the exact name of the charity. With so many charities out there, mistaken identity is a common problem. Be on the lookout for imitators or sound charities.
Find out if the charity meets BBB charity standards. Look for a report on the BBB Wise Giving Alliance website.
Check with state government officials. In about 40 states, charities are required to register to apply, usually with the attorney general’s office or the secretary of state.
The BBB Military Line provides free resources, such as financial literacy information, access to BBB services, scam alerts, and complaint and dispute resolution for all branches of the US military.
To track and report scams in your area, visit BBB Scam Tracker. For more information on businesses and charities you can trust, visit us at BBB.org.
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