May 25, 2012 – Memorial Day is a time to honor and remember those who have died fighting for our country. But sadly, it has also become a key opportunity for scammers to target those who are serving or have served their nation, especially elderly veterans. Over the holiday weekend, Better Business Bureau is urging consumers to beware of deceptive practices that could quickly drain their wallet.
“Unfortunately, our servicemembers and their families continue to be a heavily targeted group,” said Carrie A. Hurt, president and CEO of BBB serving Central, Coastal, Southwest Texas and the Permian Basin. “That is why it is so important that we educate our servicemembers and provide them with the proper tools they need to be smart consumers in the marketplace.”
BBB Military Line provides free resources, such as financial literacy information, access to BBB services and scam alerts for all branches of the military. BBB warns consumers to be aware of these scams that typically target servicemembers:
· Posing as the Veterans Administration and contacting veterans to say they need to update their credit card, bank or other financial records;
· Charging service members for services they could get for free or less expensive somewhere else, such as military records;
· Fraudulent investment schemes that convince veterans to transfer their assets into an irrevocable trust;
· Offering “instant approval” military loans (“no credit check,” “all ranks approved”) that can have high interest rates and hidden fees;
· Advertising housing online with military discounts and incentives, and then bilking service personnel out of their security deposit;
· Trying to sell things like security systems to spouses of deployed military personnel by saying the service member ordered it to protect his or her family;
· Selling stolen vehicles at low prices by claiming to be soldiers who need to sell fast because they’ve been deployed;
· Posing as government contractors recruiting veterans and then asking for a copy of the job applicants’ passport (which contains a lot of personal information);
BBB advises servicemembers, veterans and all consumers to:
· Protect your personal information. Never give out personal information that identifies you specifically, such as Social Security number, bank account information or military identification numbers.
· Never wire money to someone you do not know. Money sent via wire transfer is almost impossible to track. Pay with credit card when possible, since you can dispute charges more easily.
· Protect your computer. Avoid clicking on links within unsolicited e-mails. Make sure you have updated anti-virus software installed and use a firewall at all times.
· Do your research before making a donation. Check with your BBB at www.give.org to get reports on how national charities measure up to BBB Standards for Charity Accountability. Confirm the organization is registered with the IRS as a 501(c)(3) and verify the program and distribution of money is where you want it to be.