A division of the United States Postal Service, known as the United States Postal Inspection Service (USPIS) is partnered with the Veteran’s Administration Privacy Service (Office of Privacy and Records Management, OPRM) in a two-year agreement continuing to provide veterans and their dependents with important data on avoiding scams and protecting personal information. Operation Protect Veterans is a national anti-fraud campaign that alerts veterans and their families who have a long history of being targeted for financial abuses, often leveraging a veteran’s sense of duty and loyalty to fall prey to scams. The USPS also supports the VA’s More Than a Number campaign, which seeks to educate veterans and their beneficiaries on protecting themselves from identity theft.
Scams that target veterans run the gamut from subtle to outright audacious. Some of the better know scams may include:
- VA phishing scams: Fraudsters, posing as VA employees in electronic communication, contact veterans via “phishing,” including email spoofing, text messaging, and instant messaging. The goal is to obtain important information like Social Security numbers and personal financial information. The data is then used to access bank accounts or open fake credit card accounts.
- Benefits buyout offers: This setup involves a scammer taking advantage of a veteran’s immediate financial needs by offering a quick, upfront purchase of future disability or pension payments at a fraction of its true value.
- Fraudulent records promotions: Scammers will charge fees to veterans’ access to government forms or military records. This information is available for free through the VA for forms and the National Archives for military records.
- Bogus employment offers: Veterans often fall prey to fake job descriptions posted online. Applying for these fake jobs, veterans provide personal information on applications, and scammers will usually also charge an employment “fee.”
- Fake charitable request: Scammers, in this instance, will often use plausible branding techniques, making fraudulent claims about charitable donation collection that will not benefit wounded service members or veterans.
The most basic advice to all veterans is, do not provide information to unknown entities. Research and verify all offers and claims from outside sources. If you do not understand an offer, ask a trusted love one for help. If the scammer persists or makes financial threats remember the surest tactic is to hang up the phone, press delete, or don’t open a link you were not soliciting, or that is unknown to you. The links provided can be of great assistance to connect veterans and their loved ones to programs and educational videos to help them identify a scam before personal loss ensues. If you have a loved one that is not web-savvy, help them to understand what to look for to prevent mail fraud, bank fraud, or some other type of scheme.
The VA Privacy Service and USPIS, with their continued partnership, share a common goal: to educate veterans and their families about known scams and provide simple precautions they can take to protect their identity and money. Both the US Postal Inspection Service and the VA want to help veterans and their dependents avoid becoming victims.
If you have questions or would like a private meeting to discuss your planning needs, please don’t hesitate to contact us.
— By Cara M. Chittenden, attorney at Rebecca W. Geyer & Associates P.C.