Fraud and the Military: Are You at Risk?
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Fraud and the Military: Are You at Risk?

August 7th, 2019 | 5 min. read

Uncle Sam wants you, but so do scammers.

Believe it or not, it wasn’t that long ago that researchers tracked down books at the library using the Dewey Decimal System, friends looked you up in the phone book and customers waited for the bank’s doors to open in order to check their account balance. Automation has made all these tasks — and many more — seem laughably antiquated, especially now that we have unparalleled access to information through our cell phones.

While there’s no doubt about the benefits of digital living, it has its downsides, too. Every technological breakthrough seems to come with more sophisticated criminal activity, making it more important than ever for consumers to be vigilant.

According to the 2019 Consumer Affairs Identity Theft Statistics Report, 1.4 million instances of fraud and identity theft took place in 2018. Victims may not only suffer financial loss, but they may also have to work through the tedious tasks of law enforcement reporting, cleaning up their credit reports and opening new accounts.

While no one is immune to fraud, the Consumer Affairs Report reveals that active-duty military are more vulnerable than the general population. The rigors of deployment make it especially challenging for service members to notice identity theft, and they may not receive fraud notifications in a timely manner. Credit card and bank fraud top the list, with loan or lease fraud on the rise. In addition, the 2018 Better Business Bureau (BBB) Scam Tracker Risk Report indicates a staggering 85 percent jump in employment scams and tax fraud affecting the military between 2017 and 2018.

The BBB research details the enhanced risk for the military community, including these common scams:

  • Home improvement. During deployment, military families are often targeted by contractors who agree to do house repairs but vanish after receiving a down payment on the work. Take the time to get multiple bids for any job, and check out customer reviews on the BBB website.
  • Employment. When military members transition to a civilian career, scammers may try to take advantage of the learning curve. Legitimate employers will never ask for money or personal information up front, so be skeptical if either of these scenarios comes up.
  • Romance. Deployed service members should be wary of starting an online relationship. Romance scammers are known to exploit loneliness and then ask for money, steal their victim’s identity or engage in extortion.
  • Home rental. For families who are PCSing, real estate websites are a great starting point when looking for a new home. If you don’t plan to live on base, though, make sure you’re dealing with a legitimate agent and, if possible, inspect the property in person. Con artists may try to talk you into a down payment on a house that doesn’t exist at all, regardless of how pretty the photos are.

In addition to the military community, the FTC has identified the following populations as most vulnerable to fraud:

  • Children and the deceased. Because minors don’t typically have credit, identity theft can go unchecked. Parents should get in the habit of checking their children’s credit whenever they do a credit check for themselves. Similarly, relatives of the deceased need to be on alert for scammers who target the obituaries.
  • Seniors. Aging adults may not be as savvy as they once were, and they’re often overly trustworthy when approached by scammers.
  • Social media users. Beware of over-sharing personal information via social media, and monitor your accounts on a regular basis.

At First Command, we strive to provide convenient, accessible service to our clients while maintaining security and privacy. Whenever you interact with us online, your data is protected through encryption technology that scrambles the information. You can feel confident knowing we will never sell your information, and our security protocols ensure client confidentiality.

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