A new survey finds military veterans are victimized by scams twice as often as non-veterans, and AARP South Carolina and the U.S. Postal Inspection Service are teaming up in a prevention effort.
AARP South Carolina announced Thursday that it is joining forces with the AARP Fraud Watch Network and the U.S. Postal Inspection Service for “Operation Protect Veterans” – a campaign to warn those who have served in the military about scams and fraud schemes that target veterans.
The major educational campaign will reach out to veterans in communities across South Carolina and nationwide, according to a news release.
With a new AARP survey showing that veterans are frequently targeted by scam artists and victimized twice as often as the rest of the public, the goal of the Operation Protect Veterans education campaign is to leverage the extensive reach and communications capabilities of the two national organizations to help veterans avoid losing money to con artists.
“Unfortunately, the men and women who bravely served our country have become a prime target of telephone and online thieves,” said AARP South Carolina State Director Teresa Arnold in the release. “While veterans are bombarded by the same scam pitches we all receive, our research found that they’re also under special attack by a number of additional scams tailored just for them.”
According to the Fraud Watch Network’s recent survey, 16 percent of U.S. veterans have lost money to fraudsters, as compared to 8 percent of non-veterans.
The survey was administered between Oct. 17 and Oct. 31, to a total of 1,355 people: 610 U.S. military veterans and 593 nonveterans using NORC’s Amerispeak Internet Panel, and an additional 152 U.S. military veterans who lost money to consumer fraud, using a sample from SSI, another online survey firm.
Veterans also report that they are targeted by a large number of scams directly related to their military service or the veterans’ benefits they receive.
Eighty percent of the veterans surveyed said they have encountered veteran-specific scams, according to the release.
“The U.S. Postal Inspection Service is committed to protect our veterans from scammers who continuously prey upon them for their own illicit gains,” said Guy Cottrell, chief postal inspector, in the release. “We will continue in our fraud prevention efforts to inform veterans about scam artists who fraudulently utilize advances in technology and tailor their pitches toward them.”
How are veterans targeted?
In addition to showing how deliberate targeting may be leading to higher victimization rates among veterans, the survey also explored how veteran scam victims differ from the general public.
For instance, veteran scam victims say they are more likely to trust a person who has previously served in the military. And victims say they are more likely to donate to charities that support service members and veterans.
AARP and the U.S. Postal Inspection Service are warning veterans and their families to be on the lookout for some of the most common schemes and scams directed at veterans, including:
• The benefits buyouts offer: This scheme takes advantage of veterans in need by offering a quick upfront buyout in exchange for future disability or pension payments.
• The fake charitable giving request: Fraudulent claims about benefitting veterans or wounded service members.
• Fraudulent records offer: In this scam, veterans receive a contact claiming that for a fee only the scammer can access your military records or government forms. But this information is available for free through local U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) offices.
• A VA phishing scam: A scammer claiming to work for the VA calls veterans and asks for Social Security numbers and personal financial information.
• The bogus employment scam: Scammers collect personal information or charge a fee for obtaining a job that doesn’t exist.
To raise scam awareness among veterans and their families, Operation Protect Veterans is utilizing advertising, social media, email messages, brochures, telephone calls, mass mailings and a new website, aarp.org/ProtectVeterans.
The Fraud Watch Network has also produced a veterans edition of its popular Watchdog Alert Handbook. In a major component of the outreach campaign, printed materials will be distributed in many of the nation’s 37,000 post offices and AARP’s state offices.
AARP’s membership includes 6.5 million veterans, and the U.S. Postal Service is the nation’s largest employer of veterans, with 113,000 of its workers having served in the military.
© 2017 the Aiken Standard (Aiken, S.C.)
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