June 15, 2024

Almost 300,000 fraud reports were filed with the Federal Trade Commission between 2019 and Sept. 30, 2023 by veterans and military retirees, incurring losses amounting to $842 million. These figures showed that these groups have become prime targets for scams.

Brian Orr, an Army veteran from Colorado and a self-employed contractors, experienced such a scam first-hand. Despite already having paid off his Small Business Association loan, someone posing as a local law enforcement officer threatened him with jail time if he did not return $20,900. He got frightened and transferred money through a bitcoin ATM, as recommended by the scam caller.

After repaying about $17,500, the scam calls didn’t stop. Orr eventually drove to the county sheriff’s office in Castle Rock, where he was advised that he had been victimized by a scammer.

The Federal Trade Commission has stated that these scams often target veterans and military retirees due to their benefits. Usually, scammers pose as legitimate entities like banks, government agencies or even a loved one, to deceive their victims.

With the recent implementation of the PACT Act, which channels millions of dollars to veterans, fraudulent claims and paperwork submissions have increased sharply.

Orr, scammed out of his savings, was left with just enough to cover his rent. Although he still maintains the receipt codes of the transactions, the funds were disbursed through anonymous accounts, making them difficult to recoup.

The occurrence of such scams surely puts a dent in veterans’ sense of safety and security. FTC records show between 2019 and Sept. 30, 2023, veterans and military retirees submitted nearly 300,000 fraud reports amounting to a loss of $842 million.

The top complaints of fraud reported by the military community are ‘impostor scams’, similar to the one that Orr fell a victim to.

In response to this, the VA is setting up an office dedicated to managing the prevention of and responses to predatory activities and fraudulent claims on veterans’ benefits.

It also emphasizes the need for stronger banking safeguards to prevent these fraudulent activities. This came after Janine Williamson, a Washington resident, discovered her uncle, a Navy veteran, was defrauded over $3.5 million. She is now advocating for more stringent policies to protect consumers.

Frequently Asked Questions

Why are Veterans and Military Retirees Targeted for Fraud?

Veterans and military retirees are “attractive targets” because of their access to valuable benefits including pensions and disability payments. They may also be seen as being less aware of fraudulent tactics due to their reliance on a systematical discipline.

How Can Veterans Protect Themselves from Such Scams?

Veterans can protect themselves by being sceptical of unsolicited calls and emails, especially those that demand immediate action or payment. They can verify any correspondence through their banks or relevant government agencies, and should be sceptical of callers who refuse to provide phone numbers or offer callbacks.

What Actions are Being Taken to Address this Issue?

The VA is setting up a programme dedicated to handling prevention and responses to predatory and fraudulent activities targeting veterans’ benefits. Their plans include launching an inaugural meeting of a special task force to combat scams against veterans, and improving banking safeguards for financial fraud prevention.