Operation Protect Veterans:
Everything You Need to Know

Operation Protect Veterans

“THEY PROTECTED US. NOW IT’S OUR TURN.”

~ United States Postal Inspection Service

Vets Targeted by Scams: Operation Protect Veterans

Operation Protect Veterans

11/11/19 Operation Protect Veterans Webinar

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The time that veterans have spent in the service or on the battlefield protecting us may be over, but now it’s our turn to protect them.

Our veterans deserve a lot of things. Respect. Gratitude. Honor. Dignity. Security.

One thing they don’t deserve is criminals trying to take advantage of their service. Yet every day, scammers attempt to defraud our veterans of their hard-earned benefits, steal their identity, take their life savings, and worse.

In fact, according to a recent survey by AARP, veterans are at twice the risk of falling victim to scammers as their civilian counterparts. Many veterans report they have been targeted in scams that are directly related to their military service, while others have been targeted for the veterans’ benefits they receive.

Why are veterans the preferred target of many scammers?

From a psychological standpoint, it has everything to do with the military training they received.

Since the first day of boot camp or basic training, members of each of the military branches are taught and trained to work together as a team and rely on teamwork, to follow instructions from people in positions of authority, and to trust their fellow service members implicitly – even to the point of death.

This pledge of commitment is clear in the Navy SEAL’s ethos, the Army Ranger Creed, the Airborne Creed, the US Marine Creed, the Marine Raider (MARSOC) Creed, the Airman’s Creed, the Sailor’s Creed, and many others.

While indispensable in wartime, these attributes, in the hands of dubious criminals with nefarious intentions are ripe for manipulation and exploitation.

By the time their service commitment is up, be it one tour of duty or a 30+ year-long career, placing an allegiance of complete trust in their fellow service members has often become second nature.

Criminally-intent civilians have no such allegiance, but that doesn’t stop them from lying about it, however.

After transitioning to civilian life, that implicit trust is what makes many veterans vulnerable to imposters.

PTSD: The “Achilles Heel” For Veterans

Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) among former military service members is more than double the occurrence rate among the general population.

Scammers will frequently try to exploit this vulnerability using an “I know how you feel, I feel the same way”, “I lost some of my friends too”, or “We’re in this together” type of approach.

Relying on the trust engendered by the appearance of shared camaraderie can make it difficult, or even impossible, for many veterans to discern, recognize, and defeat the emotional manipulation used by scam artists.

“In a 2017 study involving 5,826 U.S. veterans, 12.9% were diagnosed with PTSD. This is a strikingly high rate compared to the incidence of PTSD among the general population: Just 6.8% of the U.S. population will experience PTSD at any point in their lives.”
~ Hill & Ponton Disability Attorneys

Operation Protect Veterans: Benefits Buyout Scams

U.S. Postal Inspection Service – Operation Protect Veterans – Veterans Scam PSA

AARP – Operation Protect Veterans

Joining Forces

That’s why the U.S. Postal Inspection Service and AARP have joined forces to create Operation Protect Veterans.

This page contains valuable information and resources veterans, their loved ones, and their friends can use to help protect against the scammers.

Together, we can fight back and take one small step to repay our veterans for the service they’ve given and the sacrifices they’ve made.

Know the Enemy – Current Scams:
Below are some of the current scams specifically targeting veterans:

  • “Secret” Veteran Benefits Scam: Veterans are told they qualify for “secret” government programs or benefits that offer thousands of dollars – but first, they attempt to collect personal information or a fee.
  • Fake Charitable Giving Request: Scammers make fraudulent claims about charitable giving benefits veterans of wounded service members.
  • Benefits Buyout Offer: Scammers take advantage of veterans in need by offering a quick upfront buyout – usually at a fraction of the value – of future disability or pension payments.
  • VA Loan Scams: Offers to refinance VA loans at extremely low rates.
  • Bogus Employment Scam: Scammers post fake job descriptions to collect personal information from a veteran’s job application, or they charge an employment fee.
  • Fraudulent Records Offer: Scammers try to charge Veterans a fee to access military records or government forms—information that is actually available for free through the National Archives (for military records) and VA.gov or local VA offices (for forms).
  • VA Phishing Scam: Scammers posing as VA employees
  • Update Your File Scam: An imposter, claiming to be from a government agency attempts to get a veteran’s personal information to “update their file” so they can maintain their benefits.
  • “Secret” Veteran Benefits Scam: Veterans are told they qualify for “secret” government programs or benefits that offer thousands of dollars – but first, they attempt to collect personal information or a fee.
  • Pension Poaching Scam: Scammers often offer veterans lump sum payments up front, in exchange for signing over all their future monthly benefit checks.
  • Aid and Attendance Scam: Veterans (or their family members) receive an offer to move their assets into a living trust so that they can qualify for financial assisted-living benefits.
  • Veterans Choice Program Scam: Scammers have set up a phone number nearly identical to the number veterans dial to find out if they are eligible to use approved health care providers outside of the VA system. Veterans call the fake number and a message prompts them to leave their credit card information in return for a rebate. They debit your account, and the vet gets nothing in return. Make sure to dial the correct number for the VCP: 866-606-8198.
  • GI Bill Education Marketing Scam: Veterans seeking to take advantage of the GI Bill for college courses may be targets of deceptive marketing tactics that provide false information and encourage them to attend expensive for-profit educational institutions. The VA offers a comparison tool to help you locate a school and determine your benefits. Visitwww.vets.gov/education/gi-bill
  • Special Deals for Veterans Scam: Scammers offer special discounts for veterans on a range of products, like loans and car purchases. Often, the products aren’t discounted at all, or they don’t actually exist. Check out offers carefully, and never wire money to someone you don’t know.
  • Rental Scam: A scammer posts a fake rental property on a classified ad website offering discounts for active-duty military and veterans. You just need to wire transfer a security deposit to the landlord. Only, there is no rental property, and you just lost your security deposit.
  • General Scams: Veterans can also be victims of scams not specifically targeting them for their service. These include mail fraud, telemarketing scams, email scams, internet scams, and more.

Do’s and Don’ts For Veterans

DON’T:

  • Never, EVER give ANY personal information to ANYONE over the phone if you did not initiate the call. This includes your name – including confirming your name or the spelling of your name, the types of vehicles you own, your branch of service, your years of service, your employer, your address, your bank name or bank account numbers, credit card types or credit card numbers, login email addresses for PayPal, Venmo or any other online payment services, and your Social Security number.
  • Never, EVER allow ANYONE to set up remote access to your computer (if you did not initiate the call). A common scam is to call under the guise of diagnosing problems, eliminating viruses, fixing security issues, etc. These scammers usually claim to be from either Microsoft or Dell and are calling about ‘the computer’ but they will have no specific information about the brand or type of computer. Once remotely connected to your computer, they can initiate a high-speed copy of your entire hard drive and all of the sensitive information it contains.
  • Never, EVER give anyone any of your vehicle information if they call to sell you an extended warranty or other ‘protection’. You can easily derail these scammers by asking them to tell you the make, model, and year of the vehicle they are calling about. Any legitimate service provider will have this information because they buy name lists from car dealerships; scammers will not.
  • Never, EVER respond to or return calls from either automated messages or live people claiming to be from the IRS, Social Security Administration, or any other official-sounding entities and claim you are in violation of any laws or are subject to fines or penalties, etc. All legitimate government agencies will send a letter in the mail; they will never initiate contact with phone call.
  • Never, EVER send money or gift cards or wire money to retrieve a prize. If a prize is legitimate, you will never be required to pay one cent to receive it.
  • Never, EVER agree to buy gift cards for someone in exchange for cash or cashier’s checks.
  • Never, EVER agree to sell anything to anyone on eBay, Craigslist, or any other online marketplace when the ‘buyer’ initiates contact with you, tells a story about being out of town or deployed overseas, will be returning soon and needs whatever it is you’re selling right away. The scammer will offer to send you a cashier’s check, usually for full asking price plus some extra to cover your inconvenience and they will have their person come over and pick up the item. If you insist on cash via PayPal or tell them you will require a 15-business day hold on a cashier’s check before you release the item, they will disappear.
  • Never, EVER volunteer your children’s or other family member’s names or try to guess who is calling. If you are not 100% certain AND your caller ID verifies the number, ASK WHO IS CALLING.

    One despicable trick scammers use is to call elderly veterans and say “hi mom/dad” or “hi grandma/grandpa”. Your first instinct is to guess the name of one of your children or grandchildren. The scammer will then confirm that’s who it is and then tearfully explain that even though they are innocent, they’ve been arrested or detained at the border (or some other distant location beyond driving distance) and need you to wire money for their bail or release. This type of scam will involve passing you off to an official-sounding “authority figure” who will claim to confirm the validity of the call and the charges and where to wire your money.
  • Never, EVER allow yourself to be pressured into buying, paying, or acting immediately. Rember, if it’s a good deal today, it’ll be a good deal tomorrow; and if it isn’t, it never was. Any legitimate company will be happy to give you time to check it out and think it over. If they do pressure you, just say “no”, hang up the phone and block their number so they can’t call you back.
  • Feel ashamed if you think you may have been victimized. Shame is a scammer’s best friend. Remember—you aren’t the bad person here. The scammer is. And if you come forward and report what happened, you’ll be helping other veterans like you from becoming victims.
  • If you get an automated call claiming to be about your credit card but they are unable to identify specifically which one or read you the card number, simply hang up.

DO:

  • Consider blocking Social Security benefits from scammers looking for account details online. Go to www.socialsecurity.gov/antifraudfacts/.
  • Check ANY offer with a trusted family member, friend or your local veteran’s affairs office before acting. You can also check online using the company or opportunity name followed by “reviews” or “scams”.
  • Verify the authenticity and legitimacy of any charity asking for money BEFORE sending it. There are several online services veterans can use, such as: Charity Navigator, CharityWatch, and GuideStar
  • Get an answering machine and caller ID display. Most large electronics retailers sell them. Then, let the machine answer the phone for you. If you don’t recognize the person leaving a message, don’t pick up the phone!
  • Contact your telephone service provider, and ask them what kind of services they offer to help you block unwanted calls.
  • Add all of your phone numbers to the National Do Not Call Registry.
  • Check out any charitable donation request before sending money. A good resource for this is www.charitynavigator.org
  • Report if you believe you have been the victim of a scam. Contact your local police or AARP ([email protected] or 877-908-3360).
  • Get credible information on how to qualify for veterans’ benefits by contacting your state veterans’ affairs agency. Visit www.nasdva.us, and click on “Links.”

Report a Scam

Fear and embarrassment are two of a scammer’s greatest weapons. If you believe you or a loved one has been the victim of any sort of scam, DON’T BE ASHAMED! Help yourself and others by reporting it immediately.

☎  877-908-3360 or click here to report a scam online.

You can also report it to the following federal afencies:


REPORT A POSTAL CRIME

Have you been victimized through the mail or have you witnessed a mail-related crime? You can alert Postal Inspectors to the problem and prevent others from being victimized.

Resource Center

Below are links to resources you, a friend, or a loved one can use to prevent or mitigate the damage caused by scammers:

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