Fraud Watch: Look out for scams targeting veterans, service members

Posted at 5:00 PM, Nov 15, 2018
and last updated 2018-11-15 20:23:05-05

HELENA – Montana Office of Consumer Protection is warning that some criminals are trying to take advantage of people who’ve served the country.

Marcus Meyer, an OCP investigator, said there are a number of scams aimed specifically at service members and veterans.

“We know that veterans and active military members are targeted for these particular scams because they have a steady monthly income,” he said.

One of the most common types is the “impostor scam.” Meyer pointed to Federal Trade Commission data showing military members and veterans lost $25 million to those scams in 2017.

Meyer said, in one of Montana’s most common versions of the scam, a criminal offers a home or car loan at what they claim is a deep discount for veterans. In reality, though, the deal is far less attractive than it appears.

“They’ll give personal information or even possibly start making payments, and they think that they’re getting these loans at a discounted rate,” said Meyer. “They oftentimes aren’t getting the loans at a discounted rate, or the loan doesn’t exist at all.”

Another variation is the “Veterans Affairs scam,” when a scam caller claims to be from the VA and demands personal information or payments they claim are late.

“We find that military members or veterans become victims of identity theft most commonly through the Veterans Affairs scam,” Meyer said.

Meyer said scammers can sometimes find a veteran to target by using Facebook or other social media.

“When you’re putting that information out there on those sites – that you’ve served the country or that you are currently serving the country – people are looking for that,” he said.

Meyer said, if you are promised a discount, you need to do research first. He recommends asking to see the official contract, so you know exactly what you will receive before signing anything.

“We want military members and veterans to be aware of that and to do their research to make sure they’re actually dealing with a legitimate company,” he said.

If you still have any questions about whether any offer is legitimate, you can contact the Office of Consumer Protection at (406) 444-4500. Information is also available on the agency’s website.