Veterans are facing a new enemy – con artists
Virginia’s 670,273 military veterans make up 10.3% of its population. That’s the nation’s second-highest proportion of veterans. Only Alaska tops it, with 12.6% (but only one-tenth as many actual veterans).
That makes Commonwealth veterans America’s fourth-largest target (after Florida, California, and New York vets) for con artists with specialized scams.
Surveys show that con artists have contacted more than three-quarters of US veterans. Veterans and military families are nearly 40% more likely to lose money to frauds than civilians. Military consumers reported more than 200,000 complaints, with losses of more than $267 million, in 2021 alone.
And those con games are in addition to the scams aimed at the general senior population.
Probably the most vicious of these cons is the Aid And Assistance Scam. Here’s how it works: In order to qualify for Veterans Administration benefits, a vet must have income and assets below a threshold amount. Con artists pose as financial advisors who can make the assets appear below that threshold by “diversifying” them into living trusts with legitimate-sounding entities as beneficiaries, thus camouflaging them from the VA’s view.
One such scammer “diversified” veterans’ assets into an entity called Veterans Pension Planners of America. The actual “diversification” was diversion, into her own pocket. After defrauding 78 victims out of $2 million, she was finally arrested on federal and state charges. She’s now serving a 20-year sentence, but her 78 victims are still out their $2 million.
Yet another con is the Fake Veterans Charity. Here, veterans are generally solicited by email to pledge a donation to a charity benefitting veterans. In addition to the pledge amount, the response form asks for very complete contact and personal information. Soon, a letter arrives in the mail, asking for payment of the pledge by check. In many cases, the payment amount is slightly higher than the pledge, but the victim shrugs it off because, hey, it’s helping fellow vets who need it.
Several bad things happen next.
One is that, using the victim’s routing number and banking information, they have VistaPrint, Walmart, or Costco print up checks for the account – which they cash for much more than just a few extra dollars.
Another is that they use the victim’s information to commit identity theft.
A Michigan con artist used this scam to steal about $200,000 from 36 well-intending victims before the Postal Inspection Service put him out of business and behind bars.
Here are some other popular scams (popular with con artists, not veterans):
· VA Loan Scams – Someone offers to refinance your VA loan at extremely low interest rates. To “qualify,” you need to either make a prepayment or supply “application information” that can lead to identity theft.
· Update Your File Scam – A caller, ostensibly from a government agency, says that unless you “update your file” with personal information, your benefits will run out. The personal information gets used for identity theft.
· Secret Benefits Scam (AKA Phishing Scam) – You get a phone call or email about an official-sounding but nonexistent veterans program that pays thousands in benefits. All you have to do is pay a fee and/or “apply” with personal information.
· Benefits Buyout Offer – Scammers offer veterans in need a quick upfront buyout, usually for just a fraction of future disability or pension payments.
· Phony Employment Scam – Fraudsters post fake job descriptions to ether collect a veteran’s personal information from the job application or to collect an employment fee.
· Fraudulent Records Offer – Your military records are real, but the offer isn’t. No need to pay the scammer for them. You can get them for free from the National Archives, VA.gov, or your local VA office.
· Veterans Choice Program Scam – Veterans can call 888-606-8198 to see if they’re eligible to use approved health care providers outside the Veterans Affairs system. Scammers set up an almost identical number and a message prompting callers to leave their credit card information in return for a rebate.
· Rental Scam – Scammers post fake rental property on a classified ad website, offering discounts for active military and veterans. After you’ve paid a security deposit, you find the property never existed and your money’s gone.
If a con artist attacks you (or a veteran you know), there are security measures you can take:
· Stand your ground – Many scammers try to scare veterans by claiming they’ll face legal action or lose their benefits if they don’t provide their Veteran Health Identification Card ID, social security number, or other information. Don’t do it.
· Gather intelligence – Check before you act. Immediately call the government agency the scammer claims to represent – at their official hotline number – to confirm whether the “information” was legitimate.
· Don’t let camouflage fool you – Scammers are good at disguising their emails to look like official government communications, even down to the sender’s address. So click on the address in the From line, to se it in full.
· Build your defenses – Don’t answer calls from unknown callers, or from callers whose numbers you don’t know. There are call blockers you can buy for both your mobile and landline phones. Sign up for push alerts from your bank, and check your statements and transactions online. You could even consider a finance management app like Eversafe, which monitors your bank and credit accounts to spot and flag any irregularities and breaks from the usual pattern.
Unfortunately, frauds aren’t the only ways for veterans, and other seniors, to dissipate their hard-earned life savings. Another of those ways is paying for senior care you don’t need.
Some perfectly honest and legitimate senior care agencies bundle all their services into packages. This is fine if you actually need them all, but if you don’t you lose not only money but also independence.
That’s not the way we work at Senior Insights. Before we recommend any care at all, we conduct a thorough three-part assessment of your physical, emotional, cognitive, and psychosocial needs with you and your family. Only then do we create a custom-designed holistic coordinated senior care management plan built around your individual priorities, values, preferences, schedule, hobbies and interests, and trade-offs you’re willing to make. Then, rather than keep that plan static, our monthly registered nurse visits include mini-needs assessments, to make sure your care matches your needs as they change over time.
Please contact us to lean more about senior care management planning that saves the two costs of unnecessary over-care: the monetary cost and the cost to independence.