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Military Money Scams: Are You at Risk?

January 25, 2020 | 5 min. read

Uncle Sam wants you, but so do scammers.

Military money scams have been around almost as long as soldiering itself, with thieves, hustlers and con artists constantly trying to find new ways to pry military personnel of their hard-earned money. And while today’s rapidly advancing technology has made it more difficult for scammers to ply their trade, there are still plenty of scams for today’s servicemen and women to be wary of.

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 of military money scams, 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 military money scams:

    • Home improvement scams. 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 scams. 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.
    • Military romance scams. 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 scams. 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 countless military money scams, 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.

If you want to learn more about ways to protect yourself from military money scams or you simply want to get your finances squared away, speak with a First Command Financial Advisor today.

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