Military Consumer Protection Month, recognized every July since 2013, is an opportunity for consumer awareness, enforcement and advocacy groups to focus on the impact of fraudulent or malicious marketing practices on the military community. . Despite the sacrifices members of the United States Armed Forces and their families make daily, they are often a prime target for scammers and companies employing unethical practices.
Here are some common scams that target the military:
- High-priced military loans
- Veterans Benefit Buyback Plans
- False rental properties
- Misleading car sales
- Expensive life insurance policies
According to reports submitted to BBB Scam Tracker in 2021, active duty military personnel lost nearly $330,000 to scammers across the United States, an increase of more than 70% in monetary losses from 2020. Veterans across the country have been hit even harder. , with more than $2 million lost to fraudulent business practices, a 640% increase in losses from 2020. Additionally, 50% of scam victims were over the age of 55.
“As the liaison between business and consumers, BBB is uniquely positioned to provide consumer information, advice and resources to the military community,” said Heather Massey, vice president of communications for the Better Business Bureau at the service from the heart of Texas. “By forming partnerships with military bases across Texas and monitoring market transactions in cities with a high percentage of military personnel, BBB can quickly identify and alert the military to companies using unethical tactics. “
Despite the best efforts of consumer awareness and advocacy groups, BBB research and investigations have continually revealed that the military community is more negatively affected by the tactics of scammers than their civilian counterparts. In a 2019 analysis of market challenges facing the military community, BBB found that military consumers reported losing 32% more money to scammers than the general population and 68% more to scammers. credit repair or debt relief scams. BBB’s Scam Tracker 2021 Risk Report also found that military consumers were more susceptible and lost a higher median amount to scams than non-military consumers.
“This is a huge issue, which we are actively addressing with base commanders in cities across Texas,” said Jason Meza, BBB regional director and member of the Armed Forces Disciplinary Review Board at Joint Base San Antonio (JBSA ). “BBB is assisting the JBSA Disciplinary Review Committee by providing information on businesses in the area that have received a series of complaints from regular and military consumers. This information helps the council determine which establishments are off-limits to people stationed here, preventing them from being exploited through unethical or illegal practices.
According to the FTC, the military community (active duty members, veterans, their families, and reservists) has lost more than $608 million to fraud since 2018, the majority of which, $74.2 million, to fraud. scams by government imposters. The FTC remains dedicated to protecting the U.S. military through an aggressive crackdown on reported fraudulent activity and a vigorous and ongoing education campaign tailored to the military community.
Scams by government imposters can be even more devastating for members of the military community who often interact with government agencies for assistance with veterans benefits, housing, and medical care. Government imposters often use scare tactics and threats to pressure victims into taking immediate action, such as requests for arrest, suspension of a social security number, seizure of a bank account or other fines. Some have become so advanced that they even provide fake federal badges and other documents to convince their target that they are a legitimate government employee. This practice has become so widespread in 2021 that it led Social Security Administration (SSA) Inspector General Gail S. Ennis to issue a public warning, explicitly stating that the SSA will never send images. via SMS or email of an employee’s official government identification.
“Unfortunately, it’s quite easy for scammers to download the official seals and logos of most government agencies online, which they then use in their communications to convince their target that it really is from that agency,” Meza said. . “That’s why it’s so important for military consumers to be cautious about any email, text message or phone call they receive from anyone claiming to be affiliated with the government. If they threaten immediate arrest or insist on paying an unpaid bill through non-traditional means, such as a gift card, mobile banking app, or wire transfer, hang up immediately and contact the agency through an official channel.
Visit MilitaryConsumer.gov for more information on the FTC’s Military Consumer Protection Program.
For more information on BBB’s military line and to access BBB’s 2019 Military Consumers and Marketplace Trust report, go to BBB.org/Military.