Attention veterans: beware of scams targeting you!
Sadly, those who have served in the military are often the target of scam artists. In 2015, a total of 64,581 veterans and more than 34,000 military families in the United States fell victim to these criminals, according to the Federal Trade Commission's annual report.
Take these precautions to avoid becoming a victim:
Use caution when sharing personal information: Government agencies like the VA will never call or email you to ask for personal information such as social security, bank account or credit card information. They may only ask for such information if you initiate contact first. If you receive a call or email from someone claiming to be from a government agency and asking for this information, hang up or delete the email without responding.
- Don't pay for free services: Be wary of anyone contacting you offering services like obtaining military records or filing for pension or benefits in exchange for a fee. These services can be done at Marion County Veteran Services free of charge. Staff members at this county department will explain program requirements so that you don't put your eligibility for VA, Medicaid or other benefits at risk.
- Research offers of financial benefits, loans or investments: Don't fall for high-pressure sales tactics promising loans, insurance policies or other financial benefits with instant approval or no credit checks. The hidden fees and interest rates are usually very inflated.
- Avoid paying with wire transfers: Don't enter contracts or make purchases that involve paying with wire transfers or escrow services. Scammers can use classified and rental listings to lure victims with military "discounts" on things like housing, cars and other high-priced items. There is often a made-up story surrounding the discounted price to get sympathy from the veteran.
- Verify the registration of any charity before donating. Before giving money to any charitable organization, be sure to:
- Check the organization's state and federal registration, and that they are listed as a 501(c)(3)
- Never send cash and always get a receipt if you want a tax deduction.
- Find charity registration information by visiting:
Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services
Better Business Bureau's Wise Giving Alliance
For more information on scams targeting veterans, or to report a scam, visit the FTC's Consumer Information for Military Families page, or call 1-877-FTC-HELP.