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TDCI Urges Veterans to Protect Themselves, Families From Scammers

Consumer Affairs, Securities Divisions Raise Awareness of Scams Targeting Those Who Served
Friday, November 09, 2018 | 08:11am

NASHVILLE – Though they served their nation admirably, Tennessee’s military members and their families are frequently the target of scammers intent on doing them financial harm. As the nation prepares to honor those who have served in the armed forces this Veterans Day (Nov. 12), the Tennessee Department of Commerce and Insurance’s (TDCI) Divisions of Consumer Affairs and Securities remind Tennesseans about scams targeting veterans and how they can be avoided.

“Every Tennessean is at risk of falling prey to a scammer—even those who served our country,” said TDCI Commissioner Julie Mix McPeak. “Scammers are particularly interested in veterans and service members because of their steady, guaranteed income and their prolonged time away from home during deployments. We encourage veterans to keep an eye out for potential scams and to never give their personal information to someone they don’t know.”

To help veterans combat scammers, TDCI’s Divisions of Consumer Affairs and Securities created the following tips:

Employment Scams

  • Before applying, research the employer and the job posting. If a job looks suspicious, search for it online. If the result comes up in other cities with the exact same job post, it is likely a scam. Also check the real company's job page to make sure the position is posted there.
  • If large salaries are being advertised to work from home with no experience and little to no details are offered about the job or company, that’s a red flag that it could be a scam.
  • If you receive a check in the mail as part of a job and you are instructed to deposit the check, keep a portion for yourself, and send the rest back to the hiring company in gift cards, loadable money cards, or wire transfer, it is a scam. You can always double check with your bank to ensure the authenticity of a check before depositing. If you receive a fake check, contact your local law enforcement agency.

Benefit Scams

  • Scammers will offer to buy a veteran out of their benefits. These buyouts are often a fraction of the benefit’s worth.
  • Never pay someone for access to your military records. These are all available for free through your local VA.
  • Some unscrupulous individuals attempt to scam veterans by setting up a phone number nearly identical to the number to the Veterans Choice Program. This fake number asks you to input your credit card information in exchange for a rebate. They then debit your account and give you nothing in return.

Charity Scams

  • You should never be rushed or feel pressured to make a donation. Always take your time to research the organization that’s contacting you or that you are looking to donate to.
  • Check to see if the organization is registered with the Secretary of State’s office.
  • Conduct an online search of the organization name.
  • Check with the Better Business Bureau’s Wise Giving Alliance at www.give.org to see charity reports.
  • Remember, even if you are registered on the National or State Do Not Call Registry, charities may still contact you.
  • If you didn’t initiate contact, avoid giving personal or financial information over the phone.
  • Avoid paying in cash or by wire transfer. These payment options give you little to no fraud protection.

Rental/Moving Scams

  • Always meet the landlord in person before paying. Often, rental scammers won’t meet you in person or will say they’re unavailable when you want to meet them. If the person you’re paying won’t meet you face-to-face, it’s probably time to look for another rental.
  • Visit the rental property before committing. If you’re trying to rent a property but your “landlord” won’t allow you to visit or inspect the property, there’s a very good chance you’re dealing with a scammer. Rental scammers advertise properties that they don’t have actual access to or even own.
  • Be wary of paying in cash or wiring money. A common tactic by scammers is to get their money (usually for the first and last months’ rent and a security deposit) from you either as a cash payment (which doesn’t leave a paper trail) or by a wire transfer.
  • Steer clear of a moving company that gives estimates over the phone or via email instead of onsite.
  • Be wary of a moving company that has no address and no information about a mover's registration or insurance.
  • Check a moving company’s reviews and complaint history on the websites of the Better Business Bureau and the American Moving & Storage Association.
  • Beware of low-ball estimates. Ask about additional fees and whether the estimate is binding, non-binding, or not-to-exceed. Learn more about the different types of moving estimates here.

Investment Scams

  • Be wary of upfront fees. Scammers will say they can help you get a good interest rate on a loan if you provide them with an upfront fee. If you encounter this, remember that the military offers legal assistance, interest-free emergency loans, and financial planning tools. Ask your military installation offices for details.
  • Don't trust promises about the future. Some scammers will promise changes to the terms of the loan that will occur in the future. Before handing over any money, make sure that everyone agrees to the final terms of a deal.
  • Find out with whom you are dealing. Some scam artists will portray themselves as something they are not in order to get your business. They‘ll say something like, "I'm a veteran of the armed forces," to try to gain your trust. If you are worried about validity of the salesperson, ask your installation community service office about the company or individual. You can also contact the BBB.
  • If an individual comes to your door or calls your house promising assistance with accessing your Department of Veterans Affairs benefits, you should be wary of the validity of their service. The VA doesn't generally make house calls, and it doesn't participate in telemarketing. These scammers are not at your door to provide a public service or reward you for your military service. They want your personal information and access to your financial accounts. Information and access to all your VA benefits are available online through the Department of Veterans Affairs. All military personnel and veterans can register for access to a variety of information to help you understand your business.

For more information on being a savvy consumer and investor, visit tn.gov/commerce. If you feel you’ve been the victim of a scam or financial exploitation, click here to file a complaint.

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