AARP Texas has joined forces with the AARP Fraud Watch Network and the U.S. Postal Inspection Service for Operation Protect Veterans -- a campaign to warn those who have served in the military about scams and fraud schemes that target veterans. The major educational campaign will reach out to veterans in communities across Texas and nationwide.
The goal of Operation Protect Veterans is to educate and protect veterans from losing money to con artists. A new AARP survey reveals that veterans are frequently targeted by scam artists and victimized twice as often as the rest of the public.
“The brave men and women who have defended our country have become targets for thieves,” said AARP State Director Bob Jackson. “Scammers are actually tailoring telephone and online attacks in ways designed to appeal specifically to veterans.”
According to the Fraud Watch Network’s recent survey 16 percent of U.S. veterans have lost money to fraudsters, as compared to 8 percent of non-veterans. Veterans also report that they are targeted by a large number of scams directly related to their military service or the veterans’ benefits they receive. Another 80-percent of the veterans surveyed said they have encountered veteran-specific scams.
“The U.S. Postal Inspection Service is committed to protect our veterans from scammers who continuously prey upon them for their own illicit gains,” said Guy Cottrell, Chief Postal Inspector. “We will continue in our fraud prevention efforts to inform veterans about scam artists who fraudulently utilize advances in technology and tailor their pitches towards them.”
In addition to showing how deliberate targeting may be leading to higher victimization rates among veterans, the survey also explored how veteran scam victims differ from the general public. For example, veteran scam victims say they are more likely to trust a person who has previously served in the military. And victims say they are more likely to donate to charities that support our service members and veterans.
“To a savvy con-artist, stolen valor can be an extremely effective tool,” said Jackson. “We’ve heard from a number of former and current scam artists who tell us they specifically target vets with false claims of military service brotherhood, or that they know patriotism among vets can be a powerful window in to their hearts and wallets.”
AARP and the U.S. Postal Inspection Service are warning veterans and their families to be on the lookout for some of the most common schemes and scams that target veterans. These include:
• The benefits buyout offer: This scheme takes advantage of veterans in need by offering a quick upfront buyout in exchange for future disability or pension payments.
• The fake charitable giving request: Fraudulent claims about benefitting veterans or wounded service members.
• Fraudulent records offer: In this scam, veterans receive a contact claiming that for a fee only the scammer can access your military records or government forms. But this information is available for free through local U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) offices.
• A VA phishing scam: A scammer claiming to work for the VA calls veterans and asks for Social Security numbers and personal financial information.
• The bogus employment scam: Scammers collect personal information or charge a fee for obtaining a job that doesn’t exist.
Veterans and their families can learn more about scams by visiting www.aarp.org/ProtectVeterans or reading the Fraud Watch Network Veterans edition at Watchdog Alert Handbook. Printed materials will also be distributed in many of the nation’s 37,000 Post Offices and AARP’s state offices.
AARP’s membership includes 6.5 million veterans and the U.S. Postal Service is the nation’s largest employer of veterans, with 113,000 of its workers having served in the military.
The Fraud Watch Network survey, Under Fire: Military Veterans and Consumer Fraud in the United States, also revealed that veterans who became scam victims were more likely to have had a “negative life event,” such as having suffered a serious injury or illness, struggled with mental health or addiction issues, or accumulated a significant amount of debt or suffered a large financial loss.
The survey was administered between Oct. 17 and Oct. 31, 2017, to a total of 1,355 people: 610 US military veterans and 593 nonveterans using NORC’s Amerispeak Internet Panel, and an additional 152 US military veterans who lost money to consumer fraud, using a sample from SSI, another online survey firm. A more complete description of the methodology can be found in Appendix A of the survey report.
About the AARP Fraud Watch Network
The AARP Fraud Watch Network was launched in 2013 as a free resource for people of all ages. The website provides information about fraud and scams, prevention tips from experts, an interactive scam-tracking map, fun educational quizzes, and video presentations featuring renowned security expert Frank Abagnale. Users may sign up for “Watchdog Alert” emails that deliver breaking scam information, or call a free helpline at 877-908-3360 to speak with volunteers trained in fraud counseling.