Before President Eisenhower’s proclamation establishing Veterans Day in 1954, Nov. 11 was known as Armistice Day, a celebration acknowledging the end of fighting during World War I at 11 a.m. on Nov. 11, 1918 (the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month). In recognition of the sacrifices and honor due to military veterans, official ceremonies take place in the memorial amphitheater built around the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier on Nov. 11 at 11 a.m. with the laying of a presidential wreath, often directly from the hands of the sitting U.S. president.
Approximately seven percent of the adult population are veterans of the U.S. Armed Forces ranging from 18 to over 100 years old and served in various conflicts such as the Korean War, the Vietnam War, the Global War on Terrorism and World War II. Regardless of the years spent in service or the age of the veteran when they transition out of the military, many service members encounter numerous personal and professional challenges when reintegrating into civilian life. Unfortunately, veterans and military retirees are also disproportionately targeted by con artists and scammers, further complicating an already stressful time in their lives.
According to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), veterans and military retirees have lost more than $482 million to fraud since 2018. Almost a quarter (23.2%) of all money lost has been to either business or government imposters, with a median loss of $950 and $1,500, respectively. Prize, sweepstakes and lottery scams also continue to take a heavy toll on veterans with the highest median loss of all scams at $2,200 per report.
A recent BBB report which analyzed over 300,000 online purchase scam reports to BBB Scam Tracker since 2015 found military consumers lose significantly more money to these scams than non-military consumers. So far in 2022, U.S. veterans have reported more than $3 million lost to scams to BBB Scam Tracker with nearly $400,000 lost to online purchase scams.
To help protect veterans from falling victim to scams, BBB provides the following tips:
Do your research. The first line of defense is often the strongest. Spend the time to research a company before purchasing its services or goods. Review business profiles on BBB.org and check government websites if the service is required to be licensed, such as interstate moving companies or companies using pesticides. Have a full understanding of the reason that a business requires access to your military records or government benefits, if requested, and what that information will be used for.
Avoid aggressive selling tactics. Companies and businesses that pressure consumers to immediately contract their services without allowing time to obtain quotes or estimates from competitors should be handled cautiously. While it is good practice for companies to follow up with potential customers and clients, aggressive selling tactics may signify that the company is not invested in the consumer’s interests. Be especially wary if the contractor requires full payment for the project upfront, or claims to have been working at a nearby property and has leftover material they can use for your project at a discount.
Use protected payment methods. Money that is sent via wire transfer, gift cards or peer-to-peer payment apps is extremely difficult to track and can be challenging to obtain a refund. BBB recommends using a credit card for online purchases whenever possible. Charges on credit cards are easier to dispute and be refunded when engaging with a business that does not provide the purchased service or goods.
Verify communications from government, law enforcement and businesses. Scammers often initiate contact with their target by disguising themselves as either a government or business representative, as well as a local utility company. They may claim the recipient has unpaid taxes, tickets or bills that must be immediately paid in full. Even Better Business Bureau is not immune from being used in these scams. Often, communications from businesses are designed to appear they are from a representative working for the fraud prevention department and will claim ‘suspicious activity was detected on your account.’ Conveniently, the recipient can verify their account details through a provided link. In all cases, BBB does not recommend following any links provided in unsolicited emails, text messages or QR codes. Instead, contact the organization directly to address any possible issue using methods listed on their official website.
Visit BBB.org/Military for more tips and resources to protect active-duty and veteran service members from engaging with fraudulent businesses.
The FTC provides resources focused on military consumer protection at MilitaryConsumer.gov.
Current and prior military service members who have encountered a scam are encouraged to report their experience to BBB Scam Tracker. Information provided may prevent another person from falling victim.