There's a "Heinous" New Scam Targeting Veterans, Warns AARP
The organization says that bad actors want to take advantage of a "large, new set of benefits."
Scams are nothing new, of course, but these ploys to rob you always seem to be picking up steam. According to the U.S. Federal Trade Commission (FTC), consumers lost almost $8.8 billion to fraud in 2022, a whopping 30 percent increase from 2021. Bad actors often set their sights on older adults, who they believe have "plenty of money in the bank," but anyone can be the victim of a scam, the FTC says. Now, AARP warns that scammers are focusing on another specific group: veterans. Read on to find out about the "heinous" new scam to be on the lookout for.
The PACT Act offers assistance for veterans exposed to toxic chemicals.
In a July 27 press release, AARP warned that scammers are targeting veterans by leveraging the Promise to Address Comprehensive Toxics Act, which offers assistance through the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA). Also known as the PACT Act, the law provides health care benefits for over 5 million veterans exposed to toxic substances (or survivors of deceased veterans).
But AARP points out that nearly two-thirds of veterans are unaware that they can benefit from the PACT Act, which is where scammers come in.
It's a lucrative set of benefits, so scammers want to "latch on."
As Jamie Harding with AARP Alabama told NBC-affiliate WSFA, the PACT Act covers a large pool of veterans, including those who were exposed to toxins decades ago.
"That goes back as far as the Vietnam War, when they were exposed to Agent Orange, to burn pits in Iraq and Afghanistan," Harding said.
But because it's such a "large, new set of benefits," Harding added that scammers are that much more likely to "try and latch on to it."
Complicating matters even further, veterans are also seen as an ideal target because they are thought to have "steady income and benefits, frequent moves and deployments, and tight-knit culture that criminals can exploit to gain unwarranted trust," the AARP release reads.
If you're guaranteed a big payday, it's a scam, AARP warns.
According to the AARP press release, veterans have been approached by bad actors—and one in 10 that were offered help in enrolling were promised "a lucrative payout, which is a telltale sign of a scam."
AARP didn't provide data for how many veterans have fallen victim to this specific scheme, but they're putting out a warning as veteran-related scams continue to rise. In 2022, veterans saw an uptick in fraud losses and scams, losing over $414 million (a 50 percent increase from 2021), per the FTC.
Harding told WSFA that AARP believes scamming veterans is "a particularly heinous thing to do," stressing the importance of knowing "exactly what you put your signature on."
"Our nation's veterans should not have to worry about being exploited by financial predators," Troy Broussard, senior advisor of AARP Veterans and Military Families Initiative and U.S. Army Desert Storm veteran, said in the press release. "Scammers have a playbook to get us into a heightened emotional state that gets in the way of our ability to think logically. Knowing about these specific scams makes it far less likely that anyone will engage with them."
Take a few precautions to keep yourself and your money safe.
If you're a veteran—or have family member who served in the military—AARP has a few recommendations for protecting yourself from scammers.
First, keep in mind that veterans don't have to pay for earned benefits or service records. According to AARP, if you're told something else, you're being scammed.
The organization also warns against trusting advertisements or phone calls from law firms that claim to offer assistance, and recommends signing up for the National Do Not Call registry.
Lastly, be mindful of everything you sign, and never put your signature on "a blank form or agreement with an attorney or company without fully understanding what it is."
- Source: https://www.ftc.gov/news-events/news/press-releases/2023/02/new-ftc-data-show-consumers-reported-losing-nearly-88-billion-scams-2022
- Source: https://ncoa.org/article/top-5-financial-scams-targeting-older-adults
- Source: https://www.ftc.gov/news-events/news/press-releases/2023/04/ftc-testifies-us-senate-committee-veterans-affairs-about-agencys-work-crack-down-fraud-related
- Source: https://www.donotcall.gov/