As we honor our former military personnel, Veteran's Day is also a good time to recognize the year-round attempts to defraud them - and take advantage of those who appreciate their sacrifice and service. In some scams, veterans are specifically targeted. In others, fraudsters impersonate active duty or former soldiers or claim to be working on their behalf to con patriotic civilians. A rundown of common schemes: Charity scamsNot only an often used "cause," bogus charities that claim to benefit veterans are also among the most successful - especially in duping older donors. (Other "hot button" hoaxes include schemes that allege help for disaster victims, sick children and police and fire fighters.) Although all types of charity scams tend to increase during the holiday "season of giving," Veteran's Day - along with Memorial Day - is prime time for swindles in the name of service personnel.
PhishingLike Medicare, the IRS and federal agencies, the Veterans Administration (VA) does not make unexpected telephone or email requests for personal or financial information already on file, or to announce program changes. Official correspondence will come by U.S. mail. Before providing any details, verify requests by calling these VA toll-free phone numbers.
Benefits schemes.Some promise cash payouts for pensions and future benefits to disabled vets, but typically pay only 30 to 40 percent of their actual worth, says the Better Business Bureau. Other schemes involve self-proclaimed "veterans advocates" who promise additional VA benefits by transferring retirement assets into an irrevocable trust that's unsuitable for many older vets. And remember, it's scammers - not the VA - who charge for services like filing pensions or other claims or getting military records.
Job scamsPast military service appeals to many employers, and scammers use that to their advantage. On Internet job websites, fraudsters advertise phony jobs - sometimes specifically trying to recruit veterans - in an effort to glean personal or financial information for identity theft. Although it's slowed in recent years, beware of another online ruse: Classified ads offering cars or other items, placed by scammers who pose as soldiers facing deployment or families of those killed in action - seeking upfront payment for a bargain that never materializes.
Romance scamsLooking for love on the Internet? On dating websites and online chat rooms, scammers continue to pose as active-duty or retired military to lure the lovelorn into inevitable requests for money.
You can sign up for the Fraud Watch Network at www.aarp.org/fraudwatchnetwork or by calling 800-646-2283. By joining the Fraud Watch Network, you'll receive alerts and notifications about new scams as they emerge. File a consumer complaint with the Attorney General's Office at www.atg.wa.gov.