December 4, 2012
By Lila Quintiliani, AFC®
Military Saves Assistant Coordinator

It seems like holidays bring out both the good and the bad in people.  Servicemembers, their families and veterans are a favorite target for scammers.  The Better Business Bureau recently released a list of scams directed against servicemembers, and it’s a good idea to review these so you can be on guard against them.

Some of the most frequently-encountered scams include:

-Military loans offering “instant approval” “no credit check” and “all ranks approved.”  The loans often come with very high interest rates and hidden fees.  Active-duty, guard, reserve or veterans may receive offers like this in the mail, especially if you have a VA-guaranteed mortgage.  (The Consumer Finance Protection Bureau’s Office of Servicemember Affairs has recently warned of mortgage-related scams.)
-Fraudulent online housing ads offering military discounts and other incentives that bilk servicemembers out of their security deposits.
-Charging veterans for services they could get free elsewhere, such as obtaining copies of military records or applying for GI Bill benefits.
-Con artists posing as recruiters from government contracting firms.  They ask for a copy of the veteran’s passport, and steal sensitive information without ever offering a job.
-Someone pretending to be a representative from the Veteran’s Administration asking to reconfirm credit card or bank information.
-Questionable charities that raise funds on behalf of military organizations.

The BBB also offers some tips to help servicemembers protect themselves from these scams:
-Check out companies before you do business with them at www.bbb.com
-Check out charities before you donate to them at www.give.org
-When you deploy, safeguard your identity by putting an “active duty alert” on your credit card to minimize the risk of identity theft.
-Never give out personal information (Social Security number, bank account information, credit card number, etc) to anyone who contacts you by email or telephone.

If you suspect you have been the victim of a scam, you can report it to the Better Business Bureau, the Internet Crime Complaint Center or the Federal Trade Commission (the FTC maintains the Consumer Sentinel/Military, an online database of consumer complaints).  You can also submit complaints to the Consumer Finance Protection Bureau’s Office of Servicemember Affairs.