Anchorage, Alaska — May 18, 2017 Armed Forces Day is a holiday to honor and thank our military members for their patriotic service. Better Business Bureau Serving the Northwest is gearing up for the holiday on May 20 by providing service members and their families tools for navigating the marketplace.
According to the Federal Trade Commission’s (FTC) 2016 Consumer Sentinel Network Data Book, military consumers reported an estimated 116,000 complaints. Impostor scams were the number one complaint category for military consumers, followed by identity theft.
Here are some of the most common scams involving military members and their families:
- Online romance scam: Scammers pose as real soldiers on social media sites such as Tinder or Facebook to try to play with victims’ heart strings. Once they gain the trust of someone they’re engaging with online, scammers then ask for money for medical fees, transportation or sometimes marriage processing.
- Impostor scam: Some scammers call or email the families of service members claiming their son or daughter is injured or wounded overseas. Often they ask for a wire transfer to cover medical bills. BBB advises consumers to never wire transfer money, as there is little to no way of getting the money back.
- Military loan scam: Watch out for “too good to be true” loan offers that promise deals such as “up to 40 percent of your monthly take-home pay,” “same day cash,” “no credit check” or “all ranks approved.” These offers can come with extremely high interest rates and hidden fees that can damage financial security.
- Real estate scam: Scammers know that military members and their families move from base to base around the country so this makes them easy targets for rental scams. They lift the descriptions of legitimate rental properties and rewrite the post so it offers a special discount for service members. Depicting a too-good-to-be-true offer, they ask for a security deposit to be wired in advance to ensure their occupancy. But often, the individual or family arrives at the rental property only to find it already occupied.
Service members who have been a victim of fraud are encouraged to report their experience to BBB Scam Tracker. Another resource for military consumers is the BBB Military Line. This outreach program focuses on educating service members about financial literacy and consumer protection tips for military communities.