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Military families and veterans are among the biggest targets of scammers


Military families and veterans are among the biggest targets of scammers

May 18, 2023 | 4:00 am ET
By Josh Planos
Military families and veterans are among the biggest targets of scammers
The Department of Veterans Affairs can continue providing service members with access to abortion in cases of life-threatening complications, rape or incest. (Getty Images)

Since its formal designation by Congress in 1999, May has held the distinction of being Military Appreciation Month. As Americans express their gratitude for service members and their families, a troubling, largely undiscussed reality persists and devastates the same community Americans seek to support.

Military families and veterans have long been considered among the biggest targets of scammers. In some cases, seasonal calendar anchors like Military Appreciation Month are the carrot used to ensnare victims.

With a steady paycheck and relative youth among active members, those who self-identify as military personnel, veterans or military spouses represent nearly 10% of annual reports received by BBB Scam Tracker. That’s just what we know; most situations involving fraud go unreported, and military members are perhaps even more reluctant to report than their non-military peers.

Not only is this group more likely to be targeted, but it is also more likely to report higher average losses and a higher likelihood of loss when targeted than those from non-military backgrounds, according to the 2022 BBB Scam Tracker Risk Report. Primarily through unsolicited communication, con artists frequently target this community behind the guise of aid programs, government agencies and potential employers, to name just a few cases reported to BBB Scam Tracker.

There is a serious cost associated with these experiences. The median loss for scam reports involving the military was $280 in 2022, according to the BBB Scam Tracker Risk Report, nearly 27% higher than non-military reports.

Some of those reports come from right here in Nebraska. Reports from in-state veterans have continued in 2023, with cases ranging from online purchases to debt collections to social media partnerships. Societal shifts toward work-life balance and an increased appetite for remote employment has likely made matters worse for this community. A 2020 BBB report found that those most likely to be impacted by employment scams were military spouses and veterans. That industry of fraud has only gotten worse in subsequent years.

It is critical that this vulnerability be addressed. As soldiers return to civilian life and seek to re-enter the workforce, this community faces unique, ever-changing challenges that extend from emotional and psychological strain to support network disruptions to health care accessibility. Those challenges should be met by unique support structures.

BBB has created a military and veteran consumer hub, which can be accessed here: https://www.bbb.org/all/bbbi/military-and-veteran-information. To learn more about BBB’s Military and Veterans Initiative, visit BBB.org/Military.

Sources of trust can be difficult to come by, so BBB recommends beginning with these organizations:

  • BBB Military and Veteran Consumer Information. BBB Military and Veteran Consumer Information offers free consumer education and financial literacy resources for military families and veterans.
  • U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. VA.gov, the official website for the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, is a hub for materials on every aspect that may impact the transition to civilian life. Information on education benefits, pensions and life insurance can all be found on the Veterans Affairs official website.
  • Veteran Employment Services Office. VESO offers career opportunity resources within the Department of Veterans Affairs, assisting in the transition from active duty to civilian life.
  • USA Military Assistance. Like the V.A., USA Military Assistance provides guidance in a wide variety of areas. For those on active duty, military tax guidance and free credit monitoring can also be found at usa.gov/Military-Assistance.
  • Veterans Health Administration. An extension of the VA, the Veterans Health Administration is a health care system specifically for veterans. The administration also offers resources for veterans during the COVID-19 crisis.