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Scams Plague Active-Duty Service Members, Veterans More Than Civilians

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While money scams were on the rise during the pandemic, not all Americans were impacted equally. According to a recent AARP report, active-duty service members, veterans and their families are nearly 40% more likely to fall prey to money scams and fraud than their civilian, or nonmilitary, counterparts.

In fact, 4 in 5 service members and veterans are targeted by scams directly tied to their military service or benefits.

Service members, veterans lose money to fraud more often than civilians

According to the AARP survey, 35% of service member and veteran respondents say they’ve lost money to fraud, compared with 25% of civilians.

These include:

  • IRS impostor scams
  • Grandparent impostor scams
  • Technology support scams
  • Phishing
  • Offers to fix a low credit rating or lower a credit card interest rate

In fact, service members and veterans are more likely than civilians to be the targets of the following:

  • Scam solicitations or offers related to support or repair technology (67%, versus 58% of civilians)
  • Deals for travel or vacation packages (58% versus 51%)
  • Lottery or prize winnings (54% versus 46%)
  • Special status discounts (48% versus 31%)
  • Phishing for account information (48% versus 39%)

They’re also more prone than civilians to receive a higher number — 10 or more — of robocalls (47% versus 38%) and suspicious looking texts or instant messages (28% versus 18%) in a typical week. Regardless of military or civilian status, nearly three-quarters of respondents say they get 10 or more spam emails a week.

Nearly 1 in 4 victimized by stimulus check scam lose money to it

About 1 in 10 service members and veterans say they’ve received a COVID-19 scam of either an offer for testing and treatments (12%) or to deposit or deliver a stimulus check (14%).

Of those who encountered this scam, a higher percentage of service members and veterans lost money to testing and treatment scams than civilians (30% versus 22%). However, the percentage of respondents who lost money to an economic stimulus check scam was roughly the same between both groups — 23% military and 24% civilian.

Meanwhile, about 1 in 3 service members or veterans who got a service-related scam lost money to fraudsters. These scams include:

  • Bogus requests for donations to a veteran charity (32%)
  • A request to update their military record (32%)
  • A request to sign over their disability or veterans benefits (47%)

Majority of service members, veterans use credit cards to pay for fraudulent offers

Among military and civilian groups, most victims of scams used credit cards to pay for at least one of the 17 scam offers cited (47% military versus 39% civilians). The same percentage of both groups used gift cards (20%), direct account withdrawals (17%) and cash (12%). Almost double the percentage of civilians (11%) used personal checks, compared to service members and veterans (6%).

To prevent falling prey to a scam or fraud attempt, military folks and civilians alike can use a robocall-blocking service, register their phone numbers on the National Do Not Call Registry list and place a security freeze on their credit report.

Service members and veterans with less-than-stellar credit who would like to boost their credit score should order a credit report, and check it for mistakes and inaccuracies so they don’t get dinged inadvertently.

Those needing help with managing debt should search for an accredited credit counseling organization. A list of nonprofits can be found through the National Foundation for Credit Counseling® (NFCC®). Military members and civilians can also reach out directly to their credit card issuers to try to lower their credit card interest rate.

Methodology: In August 2021, AARP commissioned NORC AmeriSpeak to survey 1,660 active-duty service members, veterans and nonmilitary members (civilians). In total, 1,546 interviews were conducted online and 114 via the phone.