AARP Warns Veterans of Fraud Threats
The association for Americans over 50 is working with the U.S. Postal Inspection Service on a new campaign to warn veterans about scams targeting their personal information and federal benefits.
Veterans of military service are twice as likely as others to be victims of consumer scams, according to recent research from AARP. This week, the association announced a joint effort with the U.S. Postal Inspection Service to warn vets of fraud schemes, some of which specifically target them.
Operation Protect Veterans, a new program from AARP’s Fraud Watch Network, warns veterans of attempts at identity theft, consumer scams offering fraudulent discounts and fake rental properties, and phony appeals for donations. Many scammers specifically prey on benefits available to veterans and their families through federal programs such as the Veterans Choice Program and the GI Bill.
The risks to veterans are highlighted in a new survey by AARP, Under Fire: Military Veterans and Consumer Fraud. The report notes that more than three-quarters of veterans (78 percent) were victims of an attempted scam in the past five years, and while they were only slightly more likely than nonveterans to receive scam calls in a given week, they were twice as likely as nonveterans to have lost money to scams over the past five years (16 percent vs. 8 percent).
“While there were many similarities between the scams veterans and nonveterans received, there were also some notable differences. In the past five years, veterans were more targeted by tech support scams, charity scams, lottery scams, and special status programs scams,” the report states. “On the other hand, nonveterans were more targeted than veterans by phishing scams, IRS scams, weight loss scams, pyramid scams, and fraud recovery scams.”
Many scammers make false claims of past military service to appeal to vets, said AARP’s lead fraud researcher, Douglas Shadel, Ph.D.
“To a savvy con artist, stolen valor can be an extremely effective tool,” Shadel said in a news release. “We’ve heard from a number of former and current scam artists who tell us they specifically target vets with false claims of military service brotherhood, or that they know patriotism among vets can be a powerful window into their hearts and wallets.”
The campaign with the U.S. Postal Inspection Service also includes a television component: The service funds a Saturday morning television show on CBS called The Inspectors, a CSI-style drama series that highlights cases of postal fraud. This week’s show, airing on Veterans Day, will focus specifically on veteran fraud issues.
“We will continue in our fraud prevention efforts to inform veterans about scam artists who fraudulently utilize advances in technology and tailor their pitches towards them,” said Chief Postal Inspector Guy Cottrell. The Postal Service is the largest employer of veterans in the U.S.
AARP has been stepping up its anti-fraud efforts. This fall, the group hired financial systems expert Frank Abagnale Jr., the former con artist and inspiration for the movie Catch Me If You Can, as a spokesperson.
A scene from an ad promoting AARP's new campaign. (YouTube screenshot)