Did you know that U.S. military veterans are nearly twice as likely as nonveterans to lose money to online fraud? If you have served and are receiving compensation benefits, you need to be on the lookout for attempts to separate you from your money and your personal information via identity theft attempts, online phishing scams, and even rental and investment scams.
Scammers frequently use phone or email to contact veterans. They’ll tell you they’re with the Department of Veterans Affairs, for example, and need to update their records with your current information. You may be asked to give your Social Security number, bank account details or mailing address. Rather than simply trusting any caller from a veterans organization, ask for a phone number where you can call them back at a later time. If the caller refuses to give you a number or simply hangs up, you know it was a scam. If they do give you a number, take time to verify that the request is legitimate once you get off the phone.
Here are additional examples of suspicious activities you may experience:
- An email that offers to help you increase your benefits or refinance your VA loan.
- A high-pressure fundraising call from a veterans charity, asking for an immediate donation via credit card.
- Ads for rental properties at a discount for veterans and active duty military personnel, with a requirement to wire money up front for a security deposit.
- A call or email offering you copies of your military documents for a fee.
How to remain vigilant
Scammers are smart, so it’s important for you to maintain a healthy dose of skepticism. Here are some things you can do to ensure you don’t fall prey to their efforts.
Most importantly, remember that neither va.gov nor the Veterans Employment Center will ever ask you for personal information via phone, text or email. If you receive a suspicious request for personal details, be sure to report it immediately to the VA’s Identity Theft Helpline.
Watch for emails sent to you from public domains. Legitimate organizations have their own domain (for example, @usba.com). If you receive an email with an offer that seems too good to be true, particularly if it comes from a public domain such as “@gmail.com” or “@yahoo.com,” you’re right to be suspicious.
If you need help with benefits issues, always work with a VA-accredited representative. To find help from someone you can trust, check out the searchable database of attorneys, claims agents and veterans service organizations (VSO) representatives that is maintained by the VA.
Before you make a donation to a charity with which you are not already familiar, be sure it’s on the up and up, using sites like BBB Wise Giving Alliance, Charity Navigator and CharityWatch.
Always research properties that are for sale or rent. You can check online property records to verify ownership. Do not make any kind of payment until you have a signed contract.
If you need copies of your VA or military records, you can get them at no cost. Contact the Department of Veterans Affairs, the National Archives or the appropriate service branch to make your request.
Where to go for help
If you think you’ve been the victim of identity theft, call the toll-free Identity Theft Helpline at (855) 578-5492, Monday-Friday from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. ET.
To help you protect your identity, the VA has created an array of helpful resources. To learn more, visit their website.
USBA Members can sign up for comprehensive IDShieldTM identity theft protection and take advantage of a Member-only discount of 15% for individuals and 48% for families.
USBA is a not-for-profit Association that provides group life insurance, health insurance supplements, and other products and services to military personnel, Federal employees, National Guard and Reserve members, Veterans and their families.