Since the first unofficial Memorial Day in April 1865, the holiday has held a special place in the hearts of military veterans, active-duty service members and the general public. Originally known as Decoration Day until the early 1900s, Americans celebrated Memorial Day by decorating the tombs and graves of soldiers who had fallen in battle during the American Civil War. After World War I, Memorial Day was expanded to recognize the sacrifices of all military members who had died in any American war.
Today, Memorial Day is often associated with an opportunity for families to get together for barbecues and weekend trips due to the extended weekend the holiday provides. For many Americans, Memorial Day marks the unofficial start of summer and is spent enjoying the sun and warm weather after the rainy spring season. Companies and businesses across the nation take this opportunity to reflect on the sacrifices of military personnel and their families, often offering discounts or deals that target members of the U.S. armed forces with patriotic messaging.
Unfortunately, scammers also take advantage of this time of the year by targeting the same audience, using a patriotic or military approach to appeal to potential victims. To protect America’s service members, BBB Military Line focuses on financial literacy training, fraud alerts and scam prevention tips for active-duty personnel, veterans and their families.
A few common scams that target military members include:
- High-priced military loans.
- Veterans’ benefits buyout plans.
- Fake rental properties.
- Misleading car sales.
- Expensive life insurance policies.
In 2020, active-duty service members lost more than $190,000 to scammers across the United States, according to reports generated by BBB Scam Tracker. Veterans across the nation were impacted to an even greater degree, with over $270,000 lost to fraudulent business practices. While the vast majority of money was lost to online purchase scams, employment, COVID-19 and phishing scams were also prevalent. Additionally, 49% of scam victims were over the age of 55.
To avoid scams targeting military members and the general public this Memorial Day, BBB recommends consumers follow these guidelines:
Do your research. The first line of defense is often the strongest. Spend the time to research a company before purchasing their 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.
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 necessary for companies to follow up with potential customers and clients, overly aggressive selling tactics may signify that the company is not invested in the consumer’s interests.
Beware emotional appeals. Exercise care when engaging with businesses that use targeted emotional reactions to entice donations or contributions from consumers. Consumers can use BBB’s Wise Giving Alliance to find a list of accredited charities on Give.org.
Never wire money to strangers. Money that is sent via wire transfer is extremely difficult to track and nearly impossible to be reimbursed. BBB recommends using a credit card for online purchases and donations 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 good.
Visit BBB Military Line for more tips and resources to protect military service members from engaging with fraudulent businesses on BBB.org.
The FTC provides resources focused on military consumer protection on FTC.gov.
Military service members who have been victims of a scam are encouraged to report it to BBB Scam Tracker. Information provided may prevent another person from falling victim.