BBB warns of scams targeting service members

Military Saves Week is an opportunity to focus on the financial readiness of Service Members and their families to help them reduce debt and save money for the future.  But scammers are also interested in Service Members too. Better Business Bureau (BBB) and MilitarySaves.org wants to remind you to watch out for common scams that specifically target Service Members and their families.

Here are the most common scams targeting our men and women in uniform:

  • Online Dating Scams: Con artists steal identities of real soldiers on social networking sites like Facebook and pose as Service Members, posting their photos on popular dating sites. Once they gain the trust of someone their engaging with online, scammers then ask for everything from laptop computers to money for airfare so they can fly back to the U.S.
  • Protest Scams:  Some scammers are contacting the families of Service Members by phone or email and making false claims that their son or daughter is injured or wounded overseas. Often they ask for a wire transfer or money order to cover medical bills.
  • Online Classifieds Car Scam: Scammers are taking to online classifieds, offering too-good-to-be-true discounts on cars for military personnel. In some cases, the con artists claim they are Service Members about to be deployed and need to sell a vehicle fast. Similarly, others offer a special discount for serving their country, but require a wire transfer deposit.
  • Military Loan Scams: Service Members who have less than perfect credit are becoming victims of flashy offers that typically promise “up to 40 percent of your monthly take home pay,” “same day cash,” “no credit check,” “all ranks approved.” But these offers can come with sky-high interest rates that do more harm than good. Often this practice involves the entire family of military members, so it can do years of damage to their financial security.
  • Housing Scams: Due to the nature of military service, those who serve and their families are forced to move from base to base around the country. Knowing this, scammers go to online classified sites to target areas near military installations. They lift the descriptions of legitimate rental properties and rewrite the post so it offers a special discount for Service Members. Depicting a too-good-to-be-true offer, they ask for a security deposit to be wired in advance to ensure their occupancy. But often, the individual or family arrives at the rental property only to find it already occupied.

BBB offers some helpful tips to protect yourself from becoming a victim of a scam. To avoid these and many other scams that target Service Members, BBB advises:

  • Protect Finances. Never wire money to strangers.
  • Safeguard your identity. Actively deployed military personnel can place an “active duty alert” on their credit reports to help minimize the risk of identity theft.
  • Report Scams. File a complaint with your Better Business Bureau and the Federal Trade Commission.

For those of us who haven’t served, but are interested in supporting a veteran or military charity, it’s important to verify the legitimacy of an organization. Research a charity through BBB Wise Giving Alliance, at Give.org.

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