BBB: Military Saves Week

Military Saves Week is an opportunity to help service members and their families focus on financial readiness, reducing debt and saving money for the future. Unfortunately, scammers are interested in service members, too. Better Business Bureau Serving the Heart of Texas wants to remind you to watch out for common scams that specifically target service members and their families.

According to the Federal Trade Commission’s (FTC) 2016 Consumer Sentinel Network Data Book, imposter scams were the number one complaint category for military consumers, followed by identity theft. That same year 103,076 complaints were reported by military consumers. That is an increase from the previous year, when there were 96,587 complaints.

Here are the most common scams that target members of the military:

  • Imposter scam: Some scammers are contacting the families of service members by phone or email and making false claims that their son or daughter is injured or wounded overseas. Often, they ask for a wire transfer or money order to cover medical bills. BBB advises consumers never wire transfer money, as there is little to no way of getting your money back.
  • Online romance scam: Scammers steal identities of real soldiers on social networking sites and pose as service members, posting their photos on popular dating websites. Once they gain the trust of someone they’re engaging with online, scammers then ask for everything from laptop computers to money for airfare so they can fly back to the U.S.
  • Auto sales scam: Scammers are taking to online classifieds, offering too-good-to-be-true discounts on cars for military personnel. In some cases, the con artists claim they are service members about to be deployed and need to sell a vehicle fast. Similarly, others offer a special discount for serving their country but require a wire transfer deposit.

BBB offers some helpful tips to protect yourself from becoming a victim of a scam:

  • Protect finances. Never wire money or give out personal information, like your Social Security number to strangers. Avoid using a debit card that is linked directly to your checking account to pay for an online transaction, use a credit card instead.
  • Safeguard your identity. Actively deployed military personnel can place an “active duty alert” on their credit reports to help minimize the risk of identity theft.
  • Report scams. You can find and report scams on BBB Scam Tracker. To file a complaint, go to bbb.org or ftc.gov.

BBB Military Line is a year-round program that brings BBB services to military members and their families. BBB has provided free resources and support to our military communities in the areas of financial literacy and consumer protection since 2004. For more information about BBB Military Line, visit BBB.org/central-texas.

Heather Massey is the Senior Regional Director for the Permian Basin office of Better Business Bureau serving the Heart of Texas. Heather is available for media interviews and speaking engagements. You can reach her by phone: (432) 741-2592 or email: hmassey@permianbasin.bbb.org.