Scammers target vulnerable military veteran community

Monday, December 11, 2017

There are advantages to having a pre-screened customer base for large enterprises.

We’ve noticed a lot of advertising for at least one insurance company that serves veterans that is apparently taking advantage of a niche market in the actuarial tables.

Unfortunately, scammers are using the same tactics, according to the U.S. Postal Inspection Service and AARP.

Their campaign, “Operation Protect Veterans,” aims to derail the criminals’ efforts.

A survey found that 80 percent of veterans have been targeted by scammers, and at least 16 percent have actually been defrauded, according to Devorah Lanner, communications director with AARP Nebraska.

“Veterans are victimized at twice the rate of the general public,” Lanner said. “That’s pretty alarming, and that tells me that this is an urgent problem that we need to be addressing, very seriously.

Like many con artists, these scammers target the most vulnerable.

One scam, the benefits buyout offer, takes advantage of veterans in need by offering a quick, upfront buyout in exchange for future disability or pension payments.

Others are phishing scams, where callers claim they work for the VA and ask for personal information to update their information.

“Our advice is, if you get an unsolicited call from the VA, hang up — because it’s not legitimate,” Lanner said.

Some use false claims of military service to tug on a veteran’s heartstrings and open a wallet.

AARP and the U.S. Postal Service are especially concerned because 6.5 million AARP members are veterans, and 113,000 USPS workers have served in the military.

The aging veteran population, from recent and wars more distant in the past, makes such veterans even more vulnerable to scams.

“Thank you for your service,” is an appropriate, common greeting when we encounter a U.S. military veteran.

Helping them avoid a costly scam is an even better way to express our gratitude.

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