Oregon FBI Tech Tuesday: Building a Digital Defense for Veterans (Part 2)
Welcome to the Oregon FBI’s Tech Tuesday segment. Today: Building a digital defense for our veterans.
This week is a time set aside to honor and celebrate those who’ve stood guard through the years to protect their fellow Americans. As we remember and recognize their service, we want to make sure that we are protecting them from financial predators.
Last week, we talked about helping veterans avoid falling victim to deceitful schools and programs that target their education benefits. This week, we are sharing some information from our partners at the Federal Trade Commission and the Department of Veterans Affairs about scams targeting veterans later in life.
One concern—investment and benefit scams. In this case, dishonest financial advisors, attorneys, and insurance agents will offer to help retired military folks move their money around in an effort to make them eligible for more government benefits. They may convince a vet to transfer assets to a trust or to invest in insurance products in an effort to qualify for a VA pension or Aid and Attendance Benefits. There are certainly plenty of reputable professionals out there to help veterans with these pension claims and benefit requests, but if someone wants to charge you an up-front fee of thousands of dollars for the help—watch out. The VA can provide a list of approved attorneys and advisors who will help you for free.
Also of note—this type of scam is usually targeted at seniors who don’t actually qualify for VA pensions or Aid and Attendance benefits. If you get caught up in this scam, you may end up having to re-pay the government. Also, in some cases, the unscrupulous advisors don’t fully educate the senior on the long-term consequences of money transfers and insurance purchases, resulting in loss of funds or loss of eligibility for Medicaid down the road.
Another type of scam targets seniors who are having cash flow issues. These fraudsters offer you an advance on your pension or disability payments. They will give you a lump sum payment if you just sign over your pension checks for the next five to ten years. The fees are often high and the original cash buy-out is typically a fraction of the overall value of the pension.
Finally, watch out for scam artists who say they want to help you update or check your military records. If someone contacts you claiming to be from the VA and they say they need to update your personal information—hang up. Contact the VA yourself using a validated system to confirm whether any update is needed. Likewise, if someone tries to charge you for accessing your own military records or government forms—don’t bite. Contact your local VA office to get your records for free.
As always, if you have been victimized by a cyber fraud, be sure to report it to the FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center at www.ic3.gov or call your local FBI office.