Military Families – Be on Alert!
Scams are something all of us need to be on the alert for, but military families, who are more mobile and less likely to have a support system in place as they move from city to city are particularly vulnerable. According to the Better Business Bureau, “Service members, veterans, and their families are common targets for fraud, with a median reported loss of $280 last year—27% higher than the general population.”
Whether you are part of a military family or not here are some popular scams everyone should guard against.
Loved one in trouble
Isolated in a new city and often worried about loved ones, military families are particularly vulnerable to scammers pretending to report injury or need in regards to deployed family members. The scammer will call the family and say the service member is hurt or has lost their wallet and is unable to make contact. They request immediate funds and/or personal information to help. This scam is very often perpetrated on older family members like grandparents who may be less suspicious and more likely to react emotionally.
Again, this scam is not limited to military families. It happened in my own non-military family. My son William was living and teaching in Korea. His grandmother got one of those calls. They knew enough information about him to make their story plausible. They knew where he was working, what he looked like and the names of some of his friends. (All easily obtainable via social media). William’s grandmother was completely ready to send money to help. Thankfully she called me to see if I had heard anything about his troubles before she did so. Despite endless assurances she was still convinced William was in trouble. It took a Skype call with him to allay her fears.
The family will get a call from an official sounding charity talking about all the good work they do for veterans and military families. They make the person they’re speaking to feel like it’s their civic duty to support the cause. While the person on the phone could very well be from a reputable, helpful charity they could also be part of a scam. Before agreeing to give funds to any charitable organization you aren’t already aware of check them out on Charity Navigator.
Catfishers will start by friending military members on social media. Once they accumulate enough personal information they will open up a fake account with the new identity. Through that fake identity they will try to scam family members or new “friends” out of money. They’ll say things like they are not getting enough to eat or that they need more supplies.
Everyone needs to be vigilant in protecting their online information against this sort of attack. Monitor social media for duplicate accounts featuring your photos. Use monitoring services like Lifelock to guard against identity theft.
Rental property scams
With a new home so often on the horizon, military families are often the target for rental scammers. If an online search lands you with an absolutely perfect property – the right location, the right price, exactly what you’re looking for–but only available till the end of the day, you are most likely being reeled in.
If the landlord is pushing you to put down a deposit right away because there’s a lineup of people that would kill for this property, that’s a crimson red flag. You might not even be looking at an available property. It could just be a listing copied from elsewhere. Always research property listing sites before using them. Or consider getting the help of a real estate professional familiar with the area.
A personal call from the VA
People are scammed out of money all the time by people with official sounding titles. No one from the department of Veteran Affairs will ever call and request sensitive information like social security numbers or banking information over the phone. Neither will credit card companies ask for that information over the phone or via email. Keep yourself safe. Never give out personal information to someone on the phone!