By Mike Festa, State Director, AARP Massachusetts
Massachusetts’ 383,087 military veterans and active-duty service members are at risk of being targeted by scammers. According to a new AARP report at: http://www.aarp.org/vetsfraudreport2021, veterans, military and their families are nearly 40% more likely to lose money to scams and fraud than the civilian population. Additionally, 4 out of 5 military/veteran adults were targeted by scams directly related to their military service or the benefits they receive.
Our research stresses the need for Massachusetts veterans and their families to stay up-to-date on the latest scams and how to avoid them. AARP Massachusetts continues to fight for those who proudly served our state by arming them with information and resources to avoid the financial and emotional impact of scams and fraud.
Scammers often use military jargon and specific government guidelines to craft an effective pitch to steal money from military members and veterans. One in three military/veteran adults reported losing money to these types of service-related scams. Of those who lost money, the top scams reported include:
- Benefit Buyouts: Turning over U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) pension and/or disability benefits for a supposed lump-sum payment that never materializes (47%).
- Fraudulent records scam: Paying for updated personal military records (32%).
- The fake charitable giving request: Donating to fake veteran charities (32%).
Other key findings include:
- Military/veteran adults reported losing more money than civilians on the grandparent-impostor scam (more than twice as often) and financial phishing schemes (nearly twice as often).
- Nearly half of military/veteran adults reported they are not using a robocall blocking service and over 1 in 4 have not registered their phone numbers on the National Do Not Call Registry.
- 81% of military/veteran adults have not placed a security freeze on their credit report.
To make scams easier to spot, AARP’s Fraud Watch Network recommends signing up for the National Do Not Call Registry and using a call-blocking service. Additional measures include: using strong and unique passwords for each online account; using two-factor authentication when available; and placing a free security freeze on credit reports at each of the three major credit bureaus. Also, veterans never have to pay for their service records or earned benefits—if told otherwise, it’s a scam.
Operation Protect Veterans—a joint program of the AARP Fraud Watch Network and the U.S. Postal Inspection Service—helps Massachusetts veterans, service members and their families to protect against fraud. The Fraud Watch Network also offers biweekly fraud alerts and a free helpline (877-908-3360) through which veterans, military and the public can report suspected scams. The AARP Watchdog Alert Handbook: Veterans’ Edition explains 10 ways that con artists target veterans. For more information and resources for veterans on the latest fraud and scams, visit www.aarp.org/veterans. For the latest scam and fraud information, visit www.aarp.org/fraud.
The survey was administered in August 2021 to a total of 1,660 people: 851 active or former U.S. military respondents and 809 non-military (civilian) adults ages 18 and older using NORC’s AmeriSpeak Internet Panel. The margin of error is 4.40% at the 90% confidence level.