Good news or bad news, surprise benefits or unexpected debts…

Scams come in all forms, but watching for these red flags will reveal a wide variety of them.

3 red flags guaranteed to help spot a scheme
Urgency. Scammers will pressure you to act quickly in order to avoid facing an alarming consequence (jail time, large financial penalties, loss of access to records.) In any legitimate transaction or service request, you never need to act fast.
Asking for personal information. Anyone unexpectedly calling, emailing, or texting to ask for personal or financial details should make you suspicious — only give that information to verified institutions you call at their official number.
Unusual payment methods and fake fees. Scammers ask you to pay for things that don’t require payment — like your benefits and records — with suspicious methods like gift cards or wire transfers that make it nearly impossible to get your money back.
Learn More About Scams and How to Avoid Them

EXAMPLES OF SCAMS

Red Flags and What You Should Do

GOVERNMENT IMPERSONATOR SCAMS

Scammers pretend they’re from a government agency such as the Department of Veterans Affairs, Social Security Administration, IRS, or Medicare saying you (or a family member) are in trouble for any number of reasons: you owe a debt, your personal information has been compromised, there are changes to your benefits, etc. The scammer will require your personal information or payment to “fix” the situation.

What a scammer might say:

Your VA profile has been flagged for possible benefit changes in the VA program. These are time sensitive opportunities, please respond immediately.

SCAMMER, Your Content Goes Here

RED FLAGS

Urgency: They’re requesting immediate action from you to “fix” the situation.

Asking for personal information: Once they have you on the line, this impersonator will surely ask for things like your Social Security number to “verify your identity” or to make these “changes.”

Unusual payment methods and fake fees: Your benefits have been earned — they aren’t something you will lose the opportunity to access.

WHAT SHOULD YOU DO?

Contact the official agency, in this case, the VA. They are the only ones who can legitimately deal with benefits, and any theoretical benefit changes.

BUSINESS IMPERSONATOR SCAMS

A scammer impersonating a legitimate business, will reach out to “confirm” a purchase or demand payment for an outstanding balance. The scammer will ask for financial or personal information to either repay the “debt” or “refund” the payment.

What a scammer might say:

You have been charged $299.99 for your military insurance auto-renewal. If there has been a mistake, please call 1-888-888-8888 IMMEDIATELY while you are in front of your computer.

SCAMMER, Your Content Goes Here

RED FLAGS

Urgency: They’re requesting immediate action from you.

Asking for personal information: They want you in front of your computer, and they might try to remote access your computer to install malware, or have you share login information.

Unusual payment methods and fake fees: They’re telling you about a charge that might not be legitimate. Do you have military insurance? Do you remember purchasing this? Are they asking you to pay for something you already own?

WHAT SHOULD YOU DO?

If you don’t remember this purchase, double check your payment transactions before doing anything else. If this actually might apply to you, call them back at the official number from a trusted resource (your military insurance’s website in this case.) Don’t click any links — they can give the scammer all kinds of personal information/login info that can result in your losing money.

ONLINE SHOPPING SCAMS

Online shopping scams come in various forms but the common theme is that something is promised and paid for but never delivered. Scammers pretend to be legitimate online sellers, potentially offering veteran or military-only offers. If the offer seems too good to be true, investigate further before making a payment.

What a scammer might say:

We have been assigned relocation and need to get rid of our car ASAP. Just $7000. Wire the money and we will arrange a meeting time.
SCAMMER, Your Content Goes Here

RED FLAGS

Urgency: They’re saying you need to pay them ASAP — or they’ll sell to someone else, be moving, etc.

Unusual payment methods and fake fees: They’re asking you to pay for something in a non-refundable way, sight unseen. There is no guarantee that this transaction is legitimate and you may be unable to recover your money.

WHAT SHOULD YOU DO?

Take a step back — does this sound realistic? Is there any way to ensure that the product will end up in your hands? If you’re buying an item on Craigslist, ask if you can meet in-person for an exchange — that way you can see the item and its condition before sending any payment. For online services, research reviews of the company and check the refund and privacy policies before you buy anything. If you decide to purchase something, always pay with protected payment.

FINANCIAL SCAMS

Scammers will pretend to have financial expertise, but in reality they’re trying to trick you into giving them your money. Programs that these “advisors” convince you to sign up for come with hidden fees or high interest rates, whether they’re approving a loan for a house, a pension advance, an auto-loan, etc.

What a scammer might say:

Looking to refinance your home? Look no further. Best Homes Lender has the best deals for veterans, hands down. We can give you $10,000 back in cash as soon as you sign!
SCAMMER, Your Content Goes Here

RED FLAGS

Urgency: They’re saying “look no further” and emphasizing bonuses “as soon as you sign” because researching other options might make their scam stand out.

Asking for personal information: An “advisor” reaching out to you instead of the other way around is generally a red flag.

Unusual payment methods and fake fees: Do a gut check, and some more research. Does this rate make sense in the current market? Is anyone else offering anything close to this?

WHAT SHOULD YOU DO?

Before applying for or modifying a loan, research current rates, terms, and incentive programs to be sure that what you’re signing for is legitimate. For example, the VA site has details about how to qualify for VA-backed loans.

SCAMS ARE UNIVERSAL AND TARGET MORE THAN JUST THE MILITARY COMMUNITY.

Here are some other common types of scams.

  • TECH SUPPORT SCAMS

Scammers will try to convince you there is a problem with your device — and you need to pay to fix it. They ask you to pay for services you don’t need to solve a problem that doesn’t exist. Disregard pop-ups and never click any links that have shown up unprompted. If there is truly a problem with your computer, take it to a specialist at an official retail store.

RED FLAGS

Urgency: Tech support scams frequently come with “urgent” pop-ups or calls demanding you act fast or something bad will happen.
Asking for personal information: These scammers are sneakier about asking for your information, but clicking unknown links, or giving them remote access to your computer will only cause problems.
Unusual payment methods and fake fees: Their goal is to get you to pay for problems that don’t exist, or pay with a wire transfer or other untraceable form of payment.
  • GOOD NEWS SCAMS

Scammers may call out of the blue to say that you are owed lottery winnings, a vacation, prize, or rebate — but must make a payment to claim it. Never pay upfront to receive winnings later.

RED FLAGS

Urgency: They’re requiring immediate action — or you’ll lose this opportunity.
Asking for personal information: The scammer will initiate unsolicited contact asking for something from you — either financial or personal information in order to claim these winnings.
Unusual payment methods and fake fees: They’re asking you to pay upfront to receive something at a later date, often with an untraceable payment (such as a gift card.)
  • STOLEN IDENTITY

Scammers will steal your information, likeness, and identity for their own gain. They could steal your photo and name to pretend to be you on a dating site, or use your social security number to open a line of credit — in your name.

Don’t make it easy for a scammer to find your personal information — keep your social media profile settings as private as possible so that you can choose who sees your information and updates. If you find someone impersonating you online, visit fightcybercrime.org to get help in how to report and resolve this activity.

For veterans and military resources go to PATRIOTlink, a service of Code of Support Foundation.

Visit Patriotlink

Need additional help? These trusted resources have support for all different situations.

See Resources

The Scam Spotter initiatives were created to empower communities to spot and stop scams. Scam Spotter Military was created in response to the increased targeting of the military community.

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