Veterans Affairs officials are sending out new warnings about an influx of fraud attempts targeting Veterans’ pensions – those which can result in life-altering financial issues for the elderly and infirm.
In a statement, Charles Tapp II, Chief Financial Officer (CFO) for the Veterans Benefits Administration said, “fraudsters are getting smarter, more deliberate, and more engaged. They’re getting better.”
Earlier this year, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) reported that 2.8 million Americans filed a complaint in 2021 – the most on record in the history of the FTC.
Sadly, older Veterans with military pensions or any other types of department payouts are considered lucrative targets for these digital thieves.
What is Pension Theft?
Pension theft, also known as pension poaching, is a financial scam that targets Veterans, survivors and family members who may be eligible for benefits. The most well-known type of pension fraud that occurs is when someone tries to falsely qualify Veterans and survivors for VA (Veterans Affairs) pension benefits.
Sadly, this happened less than 24 hours ago, and it made headlines nationwide:
Here’s an excerpt from the article:
“A 64-year-old Jacksonville man heads to federal prison for two years after he pleaded guilty to aggravated identity theft for stealing his twin brother’s personal information to secure veteran benefits, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office. As Wayne Bowen spends his time behind bars, he has also been ordered to reimburse $63,773 for government benefits to various federal agencies that he stole from, prosecutors said.”
Be on the Lookout for the Following:
It’s best to stay alert for any individuals or organizations that may ask you to do the following:
Move your money from account-to-account to properly qualify for pension payments.
Claim that pension benefits can and will be deposited into a caregiver’s account.
Charge for help with a VA pension claim.
Ask to obtain your credit card information over the phone.
Charge upfront for representing you and your claim with the VA.
In 2019, the FTC reported that the median loss for Veterans is 23% higher than current service members and noted that over a four-year period (15-19) on average, Veterans lost $950 per scam. Other notable scams aimed at Veterans are:
Benefits Buyouts: This is when you’re asked to turn over U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs pension and/or disability benefits for an alleged lump-sum, one which materializes.
Fraudulent Records Scam: Paying for updated military records.
Fake Veterans Charity: This scam is so common in fact; it’s been reported to affect Veterans more than 31% of the time.
Veterans are a common target for swindlers, and here are some clues for spotting a fake:
Employment Scams: Fake job applications are one of the most common ways that these people can get your information. Never put your Social Security number atop any job applications – if it causes an issue with the prospective employer, that’s a red flag. Furthermore, any job that asks you for a down payment or promises you big rewards in a short amount of time is typically a scam.
Phishing Scams: It’s always important to be mindful of the information you’re giving out. If you find yourself doubting the validity of someone on the other end of the phone – hang up. Also, it is incredibly important to keep the same integrity online to prevent online scams. Any emails claiming that they can help provide you with services that were unsolicited may very well be fake.
Here are some helpful tips:
Never click on any links or provide sensitive information online if it’s not something you have interacted with before.
Also, be on the lookout for scam text messages that ask you for personal/contact information.
Always make sure the website you’re on is secure and verified.
These people will also try to target you on social media. If you receive a new request to be friends with someone you’ve never met, chances are it’s a scam.
In 2021, the FTC reported that losses related to romance scams increased 80% compared to 2020.
Nowadays, scams are so evolved that they’ll even try to target you with crypto scams — regardless of whether or not you use cryptocurrency.
Property Scams: Another trendy way for scammers to target Veterans is by promising a Veteran discount on properties and requesting an upfront payment. Don’t send payments to anyone you don’t know without consulting an attorney, or before you’ve taken time to carefully review any documents.
Last year, the Federal Trade Commission says that they received 14,086 claims of email or social media identity theft, a 36% rise from the previous year.
What Should I Do to Protect Myself?
If you’re confused about available services or benefits, contact the VA’s National Call Center at 1 (800) 827-1000 for further help on avoiding and reporting scams.
You can also head over to: donotcall.gov and add your phone number(s) to the National Do Not Call registry.
It may also be a promising idea to work with a corporation that has extensive knowledge on fraud and can help you better protect yourself going forward. The AARP has a Veterans Fraud Center, and they’ll supply educational and resourceful tips to help you and your family stay safe.