Memorial Day is right around the corner, which means many people are preparing for the unofficial start of summer. More importantly, Memorial Day is a time to honor those who have lost their lives for our country.
Unfortunately, the Better Business Bureau (BBB) says scammers use this time of year to take advantage of victims in a variety of schemes with a patriotic or military approach.
Specifically, the Better Business Bureau warns of the following types of scams typically directed at service members:
High-priced military loans: Advertisements for loans that promise a guarantee, instant approval or no credit check will often come with hidden fees and extremely high interest rates. Remember that legitimate lenders will never guarantee a loan before you apply, and loans that require an upfront fee are likely a scam.
Veterans’ benefits buyout plans: This buyout plan will offer a cash payment in exchange for a disabled veteran’s future benefits or pension payments. The BBB says the cash amount is only about 30-40% of what the veteran is entitled to. These buyout plans can be structured in several different ways, so research thoroughly before signing anything over.
Fake rental properties: Stolen photos of legitimate rental properties are used in advertisements that promise military discounts and other incentives. Service members will have to pay a fee via wire transfer for security payments or a key to the property – in the end they will receive nothing.
Misleading car sales: Websites posting classified ads will offer false discounts for military personnel or claim to be from soldiers who need to sell their vehicle fast since they have been deployed. Upfront fees will be required via wire transfer, or the vehicle will have problems after purchase.
Expensive life insurance policies: Members of the military are often the targets of high pressured sales pitches that offer unnecessary, expensive life insurance policies. Solicitors may make false statements regarding the benefits that these policies offer.
The BBB recommends the following tips to avoid scams:
Do your research. Get as much information as you can about a business or charity before you pay or donate. A good start to your search would be to check out a business’ BBB Business Profile and/or see if the BBB has a report on the charity.
Never wire transfer money to anyone you don’t know. Money sent via wire transfer is practically impossible to track. Pay or donate by credit card whenever possible, since you can dispute charges more easily.
Protect your computer. Don’t click on the links within unsolicited emails. Don’t enter personal information on unfamiliar websites. Make sure that you have updated anti-virus software installed and use a firewall at all times.
Put an Active Duty alert on your credit reports when deployed. Doing so will minimize the risk of identity theft because creditors and businesses cannot issue or grant credit until verifying identity.
To track and report scams in your area, visit the BBB Scam Tracker.
For information on businesses and charities you can trust, visit BBB.org.
BBB's Military Line provides free resources, such as financial literacy information, access to BBB services, Scam Alerts, and complaint and dispute resolution for all branches of the U.S. military.