Unfortunately, the coronavirus, and the worldwide harm it is causing, has done nothing to stop fraudsters from attempting to scam veterans for whatever cash and/or financial information that they can swindle. Government agencies, including the FBI, have issued warnings about a rise in such scams.
There is an abundance of attempts to defraud veterans and others. Crooks are trying to steal stimulus checks, airline and cruise refunds and charitable funds from veterans’ groups. In exchange for free “cancer testing,” individuals are asked to supply their Medicare account number, which can then be used to access personal financial details.
Bogus coronavirus “preparedness kits” are being offered at “bargain prices,” but there is no cure. Shelter-in-place rules mean more people are on their computers and cellphones looking for diversions, and they are often vulnerable to messages that say “urgent” and “act now.” Some companies that advertise treatments for coronavirus and other illnesses have been contacted by the Food and Drug Administration and told to cease and desist. But not all comply, and new companies pop up every day.
A statement from AARP reports that anyone can put the word “veteran” in front of a charity name, and any money sent to a phony organization does not go to veterans — it goes to the “charity.” Fraud has cost veterans, service members and their families more than $338 million in the five years ending in 2019, according to Federal Trade Commission data. The median loss for military scam victims in 2019, $894, was nearly triple that for the population at large.
Old-line scams may be old, but they are still out there. One such evergreen is pension poaching. The Department of Veterans Affairs explained that while some veterans are eligible for Aid and Attendance, not all qualify. Using scare tactics and fear, some “advisers” try to convince veterans that it’s possible to get around the rules by restructuring their finances so they appear to be needy enough to qualify. The restructuring means they want to sell annuities, which are not right for everyone and can actually disqualify some veterans from Aid and Attendance.
Troop deployments are fewer than they were a few years ago, but they still occur. Often an internet classified ad states that someone across the country who is in the military is being sent overseas, needs cash and must sell his automobile at a bargain price. The unsuspecting buyer is directed to send the money to an escrow account, and the seller says his friend or relative will then drive the car to the buyer’s home. The money goes into the seller’s bank account and the car never arrives.
For a detailed list of dozens of scams, including several that are specifically aimed at veterans, go to https://aarp.org/fraudwatchnetwork. Veterans who think they might have been scammed can file complaints with the Nevada attorney general’s hotline at 888-434-9989.
Of course not all unsolicited offers are false. But to be sure, veterans should think twice when receiving unsolicited internet offers, being offered too-good-to-be-true scams over the phone and having “limited” postal offers stuffed in their mailboxes.
Virus puts show on hiatus
Thanks are in order to a few readers who have asked why my radio show on 97.1-FM has not aired for the past few weeks. As with so many things these days, it has to do with the coronavirus situation. The Lotus Broadcasting building in Las Vegas has been closed except for only a few essential employees. No, I’m not one of them, so my show is on hiatus until the health situation is under control.
Also, most readers are not aware that in addition to my “That’s America to Me” show on Lotus 97.1-FM, I had recently signed on as a volunteer at UNLV to record one-minute news items concerning veterans’ issues. The items had begun to air on the school’s KUNV-FM and its two high-definition stations. Because of the university shutdown, I won’t be recording any new broadcasts until the virus situation is under control. So when you read my columns, just imagine you’re hearing me voice the words on the radio.
Chuck N. Baker is a Purple Heart veteran of the Vietnam War and the host of “That’s America to Me” every Sunday at 7 a.m. on 97.1-FM.