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The most common scams involving veterans (and how to stop them)

By Emily Andrews

You proudly serve your country selflessly protecting our freedoms only to come home to scam artists trying to part you and your money. Quite a few scams target veterans specifically, and it is essential to know what to look for and how to avoid getting duped.

Benefit scams

Benefit buyout scams are widespread and very damaging in the long-term. They work like this; someone offers you quick cash in return for your pension benefits. By providing a lump sum and appealing to veterans who are strapped for cash and may be in temporary financial distress, this might seem like a good “quick fix.” However, scammers offer only a small percentage of the full amount, usually around 30-40% of the total. Always use VA accredited lawyers and financial representatives to avoid this one.

Benefits fraud is another harmful scam where miscreants try to gain access to your long-term military benefits through fraudulent investments or charging for items like forms that you can get for free, from the Veterans Administration. Before signing anything, always contact your local VA office to inquire if the offer is legitimate.

Another despicable con is linked to the Veterans Choice Program where scammers set up a phone number very similar to the correct one and when you call the message says to leave your credit card information and you will receive a rebate. They take the money, and you get nothing. Never leave your credit card information on an answering machine, make sure you call the correct number for the VCP 866-606-8198.

Identity theft scams

Identity theft scam is another one that happens very often – you may receive an unsolicited call from someone claiming to be from the VA. If they ask for any personal details or information, hang up. The VA does not make routine calls to update files or records. If you made the mistake of giving them information, you would want to report it to authorities and take action to protect your credit cards, and other personal identification documents.

Other common scams

Some additional scams to watch out for if you are veteran are scholarship scams related to the GI Bill or other expensive courses. Before accepting any scholarships or deals for education, contact the VA to locate your school and find out exactly what benefits you are entitled to. One call can not only save your money but also keep you from a lot of headaches later.

There are other scams involving fake rental property ads, where you are required to put up a security deposit but after doing so, there is no property to rent, and your contact disappears. Watch out for special deals explicitly targeted for veterans on cars, loans, and other items. Check out the company first to make sure they are legitimate before signing on the dotted line.

Fake charities claiming to be a branch of the armed forces is another popular scam. Scammers know that military veterans are like family and always willing to support fellow veterans. They pray on that compassion to scam you out of your hard-earned dollars and sully the waters of giving.

Sometimes you might see an ad on craigslist or another classifieds website of someone claiming they are about to be deployed and “need to sell” an expensive item cheap. Payment terms will always be upfront, and they will use their upcoming deployment as an excuse for delivery issues and urgency.

How to spot scams and avoid them

The best advice on how to avoid being scammed is staying away from any unsolicited offers through the mail, phone and even online. If you did not initiate the call or contact, then walk away.

Never wire money to someone you don’t know, and don’t give your credit card details or pension benefits information to anyone you do not trust. Watch out for anyone who wants you to pay them in gift cards or offers them to you.

Never agree to a pension buyout or sign over control of your benefits. Watch out for loans with high fees or interest rates and stay away from deals that appear to be “too good to be true.”

In many cases, the Veterans Administration can help with a list of legitimate businesses offering services and deals to veterans. Before making any decisions review the VA-accredited representatives list.

The AARP Fraud Watch Network is another excellent resource you can tap to get information about current scams aimed at veterans and help if you are a victim of one.

Finally, if you are the victim of a scam, report it to the police to help law enforcement shut them down. Provide as many details as possible, and help so that other veterans don’t get scammed or become a victim of cyber bullying, which is also seen as a criminal charge in some states.

Emily Andrews is a writer at and marketing communications specialist at RecordsFinder, an online public records search company. Communications specialist by day and community volunteer at night. She believes in compassion and defending the defenseless.

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