In 2020, military members reported nearly 66,000 fraud complaints to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) and lost an estimated $40 million to fraud and imposter scams. And as a recent survey on veteran scams by nonprofit organization AARP confirms, this demographic is still a major target.
Veterans are often targeted by fraudsters because of the government benefits and paychecks they receive. Scammers may also use the knowledge of a person's military service against them, by infusing military jargon into robocalls, spam emails and text messages to seem more legitimate. By posing as fellow service members or government workers, fraudsters are often able to gain the trust of their targets.
Military benefits are a target
While civilians participating in the survey reported losing money to scams, military/veterans were targeted more frequently.
Here are some of the main findings from the survey, conducted in September 2021:
- 4 in 5 military/veteran adults were targeted by scams related to their military service or benefits
- 1 in 3 military/veterans lost money to service-related scams
- 35% of military/veterans lost money to a scam versus 25% of civilians
- 47% of military/veterans receive 10 or more robocalls each week, versus 38% of civilians
In one common scam, fraudsters took advantage of older adults’ willingness to support younger family members. Sometimes referred to as the "grandparent imposter scam," this typically involves someone impersonating a target's grandchild and asking for emergency money. The imposter may even pull public information from a social media account in order to make their appeal more convincing.
According to AARP’s survey, 36% of military/veterans lost money in the "grandparent imposter" scam in 2021, versus 17% of civilians.
Common scams against veterans
The AARP warns veterans to be aware of these common scams:
- Benefit buyouts: When someone turns over their VA pension and/or disability benefits in exchange for a lump-sum payment promised by the scammer.
- Fraudulent records scam: When someone pays for their updated personal military records, even though they can be obtained for free through the VA.
- The fake charitable giving request: When someone is compelled to make donations to a fraudulent veteran's charity.
Other common scams that target veterans and military consumers include offers of prizes and travel, as well as foreclosure relief and debt management.
Veterans can take preventative measures
With targeted scams and cybercrimes on the rise, it's important to take preventative steps to secure your personal and financial information.
Here are some recommended steps that servicemembers and veterans can take for free, to avoid losing money to scammers:
- Sign up for the National Do Not Call Registry
- Use a call-blocking service
- Set up strong passwords, and don't reuse a password for multiple accounts
- Enable two-factor authentication for your accounts
- Review your credit reports regularly and place a free security freeze on credit reports if you suspect fraud
If you believe you've been the target of a scam or financial fraud, you can report the fraud to the FTC and get advice on the best steps to recover.
Methodology: The survey was administered both by phone and online in September 2021 to a total of 1,660 people: 851 active or former U.S. military respondents and 809 non-military (civilian) adults ages 18 and older using NORC's AmeriSpeak Internet Panel.