While the nation honors veterans on Memorial Day, Better Business Bureau warns veterans and their families that scammers also may be victimizing veterans, especially those who are frail and elderly.
“Veterans have put their lives on the line for their country,” said Kim States, BBB President. “For scammers to target these patriotic individuals is shameful.”
Veterans scams can take many forms. Among them:
- Firms that target veterans and charge them for products and services they can receive free or at lower cost elsewhere, such as military records and forms.
- Scammers who contact veterans saying that they need to update their credit card information or other records with the Veterans Administration. The scammers then use the information to commit identity theft.
- Bogus charities with names that reference the Armed Forces and seek donations.
- Fraudsters calling themselves veterans advocates who try to convince veterans that they can get more benefits by transferring their investments into an irrevocable trust, which often contains unsuitable investments.
Lyon Research, a company based in Vienna, Va., has generated 28 unanswered complaints concerning veterans in states from Florida to Washington over the last 36 months. The company has an “F” grade with the BBB, the lowest possible.
On its website, Lyon Research encourages veterans to click on a link to obtain their military records or a DD214 form, the “condition of discharge” form issued by the Defense Department. (The forms are available free from the Veterans Administration.)
A veteran from Wisconsin clicked on the link and entered his credit card information, resulting in a $90 charge on his credit card bill. He was promised his information within a week but received nothing after two months. Eventually, he got his information free from a local Veterans Administration office.
BBB advises veterans to be wary of unsolicited mail or email seeking personal information, such as credit card or bank account numbers, Social Security numbers, military identification numbers or dates of birth or military service. Never use email to communicate personal sensitive information, and don’t respond to emails asking to verify your personal information and identifiers.
Veterans who conduct business online should use their own computers. A public computer, such as one at a library or hotel, is less secure.
Bogus charities often use names that reference the Armed Forces, names of military branches or units or simply include the word “veterans” in their name. While legitimate charities do exist to assist veterans, donors would be wise to check the charities out before making a donation.
BBB urges veterans to check out companies or charities at www.tucson.bbb.org or by calling (520)888-5353 before doing business. BBB Business Reviews contain information on the company’s complaint records, its owners and any government action taken against them. BBB Charity Reports include information on fundraising, governance and other aspects of nonprofits.