This week marks the 100th anniversary to the end of World War I, observed earlier this week as Veterans Day. It’s a time we honor the service of all of our U.S. military veterans. It’s also a time to bring to light the harsh realities that service members, veterans and their families face when it comes to scams. Unfortunately, they are common targets, with a median reported loss of $280 last year. That’s 27% higher than the general population.
Better Business Bureau (BBB) receives thousands of reports per year from active duty service members, military families and veterans through our crowd-sourced scam reporting tool, BBB Scam TrackerSM. BBB wants to warn our service members of common scams to watch out for, so decided to find out what frauds currently cause the most risk to military consumers. Information from our scam tracker database was cross checked using the BBB Risk Index, which measures risk according to exposure, likelihood of losing money, and median monetary loss.
The following are the top five most risky scams affecting military service members, veterans and their families from lowest to highest risk.
5. Tech Support Scams
So what is a tech support scam? It typically starts when a warning pops up on your screen with the dreaded words: You Have Been Infected. Immediately, the panic sets in: you need to keep in touch with family and loved ones, and prevent all of your valuable files and information from being lost forever. A phone number appears on the screen, or you get a phone call from someone claiming to be from a well-known tech support company. No matter how much the screen is flashing, or how loud the warning is blasting on your computer—try to stay calm. Scammers use fear to lower your defenses and lure you out of hundreds of dollars. Immediately shut down your device and reboot. Do not give control of your device to a third party that contacts you. Instead, reach out directly to a local business or online service provider you trust. Watch this video from our friends at the FTC to learn more about tech support imposters.
4. Online Purchase Scams
Nearly three out of every four military consumers reporting an online purchase scam told us they lost money to a fraudster. Between frequent moves and changing financial situations, families are buying and selling more items online—and falling into common scammer traps. No matter where you’re stationed, purchase items from trustworthy retailers with a verifiable physical address and a secure website. If you’re selling your items or purchasing them from individuals, use trustworthy online marketplace sites and apps that offer protections so your transaction is safer and more secure.
3. Fake Check/Money Order Scams
With the increased use of credit cards and other forms of digital payment, it’s easy to forget how checks actually work, or even how to tell if a check is fraudulent. Scammers take advantage of this in a number of ways. One strategy fraudsters use is to overpay you for a product or service with a check. The scammer will tell you to just send him or her the difference by wire transfer—and maybe even let you keep a few extra bucks for your trouble. Remember: a check may “clear” in your account, but you are still responsible for the funds—even if it turns out to be fake weeks later. Be immediately suspicious of overpayments, and don’t wire or send money to someone you do not know. Learn more about fake check scams in our latest Investigative Report.
2. Home Improvement Scams
When you’re new in town, it can be hard to know who to trust with your home repairs. Sixty-one percent of military consumers who reported a home improvement scam lost money, which is significantly higher than the 50% across all consumer types.2 No matter how trustworthy someone may seem at your door, you should always verify their credentials. Say no to cash-only deals, high-pressure sales tactics, payments made upfront, handshake deals without a contract, and on-site inspections. Get details in writing and verify trustworthy contractors and home improvement professionals at BBB.org.
1. Employment Scams
By a landslide, the most risky scam for military spouses and veterans is employment scams; the median dollars reported lost was $1,715— nearly double that reported across all consumers.3 Whether you’re looking for a flexible opportunity close to home or hoping to secure your first civilian job, it can be difficult to identify if an opportunity is made for you or just plain made up.