What should be seen as a patriotic holiday and month as we recognize National Military Appreciation Month, crooks see as an opportunity to prey on support for the military, and even military members themselves. Consumers are often solicited to support fraudulent military and veteran fundraising efforts, and scammers also target military members and their spouses. Better Business Bureau serving Chicago and Northern Illinois is alerting consumers and military members to beware of scams tied to the Memorial Day weekend.
„Scammers know how and when to play on people’s emotions, whether it be for donations, or hard to resist offers on merchandise or loans for cash-strapped veterans, said Steve J. Bernas, president and CEO of BBB serving Chicago and Northern Illinois. „As with any scam, if an offer or request seems suspicious or too-good-to-be-true, research the company or charity before acting. We get so many calls and complaints after the fact, but these scams can be easily avoided if consumers take some time to research first, before taking action.”
Common military related scams include:
Impersonating a military or veteran charity to solicit donations.
Posing as the Veterans Administration (VA) under the guise of asking veterans to update credit card, bank or other financial records with the VA.
Assessing fees for services that military members could get for free.
Offering military loans with high interest rates and hidden fees.
Advertising housing online with military discounts and incentives just to snag the security deposits.
Selling stolen vehicles at low prices by claiming to be a soldier who needs to sell fast because he’s been deployed.
Posing as government contractors recruiting veterans and then asking for a copy of the job applicant’s passport, which can lead to identity theft.
Targeting military spouses with phishing emails.
Using social networks or dating services to get victims to wire money to help what they are led to believe is a deployed service member.
For anyone considering giving to a charity solicitation, always make sure to do your homework first. The BBB Wise Giving Alliance offers the following advisory tips.
Mistaken Identity: Watch out for name confusion. Many veterans’ charities include virtually the same words in different order or slightly different form.
Clear Program Description: Look for a clear description of the organization’s programs in its appeals and on its website. If it says it is helping veterans, does it explain how (financial assistance, shelter, counseling) and where it is doing so?
Telemarketing Cautions: Telemarketing can be a costly method of fundraising unless carefully managed. If called, do not hesitate to ask for written information on the charity’s programs and finances.
On-the-Spot Donation Decisions: Be wary of excessive pressure in fundraising. Don’t be pressured to make an immediate on-the-spot donation. Charities should welcome your gift whenever you want to send it.
Donating Used Clothing and Other Goods: Find out how the charity benefits from the collection and resale of used clothing and other in-kind gifts. Sometimes the charity receives only a small portion of the resale price of the item or may have a contractual arrangement to get a flat fee for every household pick-up, no matter what the contents.
Check Before Giving: To avoid falling victim to such scams, research any charity before giving by checking them out on Give.org.