A publication of the Kentucky Center for Public Service Journalism

BBB Trends: Military consumers are vulnerable to scams — keep your guard up; don’t be a victim

By Sandra Guile
Better Business Bureau

Approximately 1.3 million Americans are active duty service members, another 800,000 are in the reserves, and nearly 20 million are military veterans. While these people have one obvious thing in common, there is one other prevalent similarity between them – these people and their loved ones are at a higher risk of being the targets of a scam.

The top five scams that affect service members are impostor scams, telephone, and mobile services scams, shop at home scams, sweepstakes scams, and counterfeit check scams.

For example, military consumers reported losing more than $25 million to impostor scams last year with a median loss of $699 each – markedly higher than the $500 median loss reported by general civilians.

Impostors Present Plausible Presence

Impostor scams are situations when a con artist pretends to be someone the service person trusts and convinces them to send money or personal information. The scam can take many forms: impostors may say they’re calling from the government or from a business with technical support expertise. Other scammers lure unsuspecting victims by posing as legitimate users of online dating sites, or say that there’s an emergency involving a friend or family member.

Unfortunately, these situations aren’t real.

Because of the nature of the job, military personnel are targeted by fraudsters because of the guaranteed and steady income provided by the U.S. Government. Servicemen and women are sometimes required to deploy overseas at a moment’s notice or relocate their homes several times throughout their career. This can make staying on top of personal finances and credit report red flags more difficult, not just for the military member but for their family as well.

Avoid An Impostor’s Ploy

Service members, veterans, and their families are advised to never give personal information to a person or organization they’re unfamiliar with. If a phone number shows up in the caller ID that is not recognized, don’t respond. Deployed military personnel should consider placing an active duty alert on their credit reports to minimize the risk of identity theft. Military members and their families can find additional information about specific scams affecting their area on scamtracker.org.

Sandra Guile is the Community Outreach Specialist for BBB. She promotes BBB’s message of marketplace ethics through public speaking engagements, presentations, media relations, press releases, web content, and other written materials. Your BBB is located at 1 East 4th Street Suite 600 Cincinnati, Ohio 45202 – to reach the office, call (513) 421-3015.

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