AUSTIN, Texas-Military Saves Week is an opportunity to help service members and their families focus on financial readiness, reducing debt and saving money for the future. Unfortunately, scammers are interested in service members, too.
Better Business Bureau serving Central, Coastal, Southwest Texas, and the Permian Basin and Military Saves Week want to remind you to watch out for common scams that specifically target service members and their families.
According to the Federal Trade Commission's (FTC) 2015 Consumer Sentinel Network Data Book, identity theft was the number one complaint category for military consumers, followed by imposter scams.
That same year, more than 96,500 complaints were reported by military consumers.
Here are the most common scams that target members of the military:
- Online romance scam: Scammers steal identities of real soldiers on social networking sites like Facebook and pose as service members, posting their photos on popular dating sites. Once they gain the trust of someone they're engaging with online, scammers then ask for everything from laptop computers to money for airfare so they can fly back to the U.S.
- Imposter scam: Some scammers are contacting the families of service members by phone or email and making false claims that their son or daughter is injured or wounded overseas. Often they ask for a wire transfer or money order to cover medical bills. BBB advises consumers never wire transfer money, as there is little to no way of getting your money back.
- Auto sales scam: Scammers are taking to online classifieds, offering too-good-to-be-true discounts on cars for military personnel. In some cases, the con artists claim they are service members about to be deployed and need to sell a vehicle fast. Similarly, others offer a special discount for serving their country but require a wire transfer deposit.
- Military loan scam: Service members who have less than perfect credit are becoming victims of flashy offers that typically promise "up to 40 percent of your monthly take home pay," "same day cash," "no credit check," "all ranks approved." But these offers can come with extremely high interest rates and hidden fees. Often this practice involves the entire family of military members, so it can do years of damage to their financial security.
- Real estate scam: Due to the nature of military service, those who serve and their families are forced to move from base to base around the country. Knowing this, scammers go to online classifieds sites to target areas near military installations. They lift the descriptions of legitimate rental properties and rewrite the post so it offers a special discount for service members. Depicting a too-good-to-be-true offer, they ask for a security deposit to be wired in advance to ensure their occupancy. But often, the individual or family arrives at the rental property only to find it already occupied.
BBB offers some helpful tips to protect yourself from becoming a victim of a scam:
- Protect finances. Never wire money or give out personal information, like your Social Security number to strangers. Avoid using a debit card that is linked directly to your checking account to pay for an online transaction, but use a credit card instead.
- Safeguard your identity. Actively deployed military personnel can place an "active duty alert" on their credit reports to help minimize the risk of identity theft.
- Report scams. You can find and report scams on BBB Scam Tracker. To file a complaint, go to bbb.org or ftc.gov.
BBB Military Line is a year-round program that brings BBB services to military members and their families.
BBB has provided free resources and support to our military communities in the areas of financial literacy and consumer protection since 2004. For more information about BBB Military Line, visit bbb.org/central-texas.