Memorial Day is a time to honor those who serve and remember those who have died serving their country. But sadly, it has also become a key opportunity for scammers to target those who are serving or have served previously, especially elderly veterans. As Memorial Day approaches, the Better Business Bureau of Minnesota and North Dakota (BBB) urges consumers and donors to watch out for scammers.
BBB Military Line, the military arm of the BBB, provides free resources, such as financial literacy information, access to BBB services and scam alerts, as well as complaint and dispute resolution for all branches of the U.S. military. The BBB warns of the following scams that are often directed at service members:
High priced military loans – Advertisements for loans that promise a guarantee, instant approval or no credit check will often come with hidden fees and extremely high interest rates. Remember that legitimate lenders will never guarantee a loan before you apply, and loans that require upfront fees are likely fraudulent.
Veterans’ benefits buyout plans – This buyout plan will offer a cash payment in exchange for a disabled veteran’s future benefits or pension payments. The cash amount is only about 30-40% of what the veteran is entitled to. These buyout plans can be structured in several different ways, so research them thoroughly before signing or agreeing to anything.
Fake rental properties – Stolen photos of legitimate rental properties are used in bogus advertisements that promise military discounts and other incentives. Servicemembers are told they have to pay a fee via wire transfer for security payments or a key to the property; in the end they receive nothing.
Phony jury duty summons – A caller clams to work for the local court system and states that the servicemember did not show up for jury duty and now there’s a warrant out for their arrest. When the victim says they never got a summons, the caller will ask for a credit card number or Social Security number to clear up the matter – but don’t give this information out. The threat of arrest is bogus and this is just another tactic to defraud you.
Misleading car sales – Websites posting classified ads will offer false discounts for military personnel or claim to be from soldiers who need to sell their vehicle in a hurry because they’ve been deployed. Upfront fees will be requested via wire transfer, and too often the cars advertised are non-existent.
Expensive life insurance policies – Members of the military are often the targets of high- pressured sales pitches that offer unnecessary, expensive life insurance policies. Solicitors may make false statements regarding the benefits that these policies offer.
The BBB recommends the following tips to avoid scams:
Do your research. Get as much information as you can about a business or charity before you pay. Check out a business’ BBB Business Review at bbb.org or a charity’s Charity Report at give.org.
Don’t wire money to anyone you don’t know. Money sent via wire transfer is practically impossible to track. Pay by credit card whenever possible, since you can dispute charges easily. Also watch out for ‘offers’ that require you to purchase Green Dot MoneyPaks and share the number on the back. This allows others to siphon funds from those MoneyPaks, leaving you with a worthless piece of cardboard.
Protect your computer. Don’t click on links within unsolicited emails. Don’t enter personal information on unfamiliar websites. Make sure that you have updated anti-virus software installed and use a firewall at all times.
Put an Active Duty alert on your credit reports when deployed. Doing so will minimize the risk of identity theft because creditors and businesses cannot issue or grant credit until verifying identity.