Campaign to help stop veterans victimized by scams

SPARTANBURG, SC (WSPA) – The people who fought for our freedom are getting targeted by scams and fraud.

It’s an issue being tackled by a new campaign, as events honoring veterans continue this week.

“This is your country, and the only reason you’ve got this country is because of the veterans,” said Boiling Springs American Legion Post 200 Commander Stanley Webber after the Spartanburg Veterans Day Parade Thursday. “They need the honor that they deserve.”

It’s the people who experts say are targeted by another enemy once they’re home – as scam artists take aim at veterans.

“It makes my blood boil,” said Webber.

The nationwide campaign to help stop the issue is called Operation Protect Veterans. It’s by the AARP and U.S. Postal Inspection Service.

“It’s a shame that when folks who serve our country an risk their lives that they become targets of scams and fraud activities at an alarming rate,” said AARP South Carolina Communications Manager Patrick Cobb.

A survey from the AARP’s Fraud Watch Network found veterans lose money twice as often compared to non-veterans – 16 percent of U.S. veterans have lost money to fraudsters, as compared to 8 percent of non-veterans. Eighty percent of veterans surveyed also said they have been targeted by veteran-specific scams.

“Part of it’s because it’s directly related to their military service or the benefits they receive,” said Cobb.

The following are the most common scams targeting veterans, according to the AARP and USPIS:

  • The benefits buyout 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.

The campaign looks to get this information into the hands of veterans and those who support them through advertising, social media, email messages, brochures, telephone calls, mass mailings and a website, www.aarp.org/Protect Veterans.