TEAMING UP TO FIGHT SCAMS THAT TARGET VETERANS

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By Suzanne Potter, Public News Service

November 9, 2017 (Sacramento) - Scams targeting veterans are on the increase, according to the U.S. Postal Inspection Service, so postal inspectors are teaming up with AARP's Fraud Watch Network in a new campaign called "Operation Protect Veterans."

Researchers surveyed vets and found that 80 percent have been targeted by scammers - and at least 16 percent have actually been defrauded.

Strat Maloma, the senior program specialist and California lead for the AARP Fraud Watch Network, says in one common scheme, a caller will offer veterans a lump sum to buy out their future pension or disability benefits.

"They might find themselves in a difficult situation and therefore, might be tempted," he says. "They sign over their benefits, and they never receive any compensation for it."

Authorities have also received many complaints about fake charities that claim to help veterans but are really just pocketing the donations. Maloma says people also charge money for access to records that the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs provides for free.

And he says he's seen classic phishing scams seeking data that can be used to steal the victim's identity.

"Scammers contact veterans claiming to be from the VA, and they need to 'update their records' with their personal information - be it their Social Security card number or be it some medical records, or be it account numbers, and so forth," he explains.

In yet another scam, the victim is offered - for a fee and some personal information - access to job listings from companies supposedly seeking to hire veterans. In short, there's a lot to look out for.

For more information, look online at aarp.org/ProtectVeterans.