This year, National Consumer Protection Week (NCPW) runs from March 4–10, 2018, and the focus is on veterans. The United States Postal Inspection Service® and the American Association of Retired Persons (AARP) Fraud Watch Network have jointly launched Operation Protect Veterans — a national campaign to warn those who have served in the military about scams and fraud schemes that target veterans.
A new survey conducted by the National Opinion Research Center (NORC), a research organization at the University of Chicago, shows that veterans are frequently targeted by scam artists and victimized twice as often as the rest of the public. The goal of Operation Protect Veterans is to leverage the combined reach and communications capabilities of the U.S. Postal Inspection Service and the AARP Fraud Watch Network to help veterans avoid losing money to con artists.
According to the NORC survey, 16 percent of U.S. veterans have lost money to fraudsters compared to 8 percent of nonveterans. Veterans also report that they were targeted by a large number of scams directly related to their military service or the veterans’ benefits they receive. Eighty percent of the veterans surveyed said they have encountered veteran-specific scams.
The survey also explored how veteran scam victims differ from the general public. For instance, veteran scam victims say they are more likely to:
- Trust a person who has previously served in the military.
- Donate to charities that support service members and veterans.
- Have had a “negative life event,” such as a serious injury or illness, mental health or addiction issues, or financial issues (i.e., accumulating a significant amount of debt).
The U.S. Postal Service® is the nation’s largest employer of veterans. Postal inspectors are warning Postal Service™ employees who have served in the military to watch out for the following veteran scams:
- The benefits buyout offer. Scammers take advantage of veterans in need by offering a quick upfront buyout, usually at a fraction of the value, of future disability or pension payments.
- The fake charitable giving request. Scammers make fraudulent claims about charitable giving that benefits veterans or wounded service members.
- Fraudulent records offer. Scammers try to charge veterans a fee to access military records or government forms. This information is available for free through local U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) offices.
- A VA phishing scam. Scammers, who claim to work for the VA, call veterans to “phish” for Social Security numbers and personal financial information.
- The bogus employment scam. Scammers post fake job descriptions to collect personal information from a veteran’s job application or charge an employment fee.
Operation Protect Veterans will use the following tools to raise scam awareness among veterans and their families:
- Social media and email messages,
- Brochures and mass mailings, and
- A new website hosted by the U.S. Postal Inspection Service’s partner, AARP.
A major component of the campaign also includes printed materials that the campaign will distribute to many of the Postal Service’s 37,000 offices.
“The U.S. Postal Inspection Service is committed to protecting veterans from scammers who prey upon them,” said Chief Postal Inspector Guy Cottrell. “Scam artists specifically target vets by using false claims of military service brotherhood. Patriotism among vets can be a powerful window into their hearts and wallets. We are working hard to inform Postal Service employees about scam artists who tailor their pitches towards former and active service members.”
For more information about scams targeting veterans, we encourage Postal Service employees and their families to use the following resources:
- The U.S. Postal Inspection Service website: postalinspectors.uspis.gov.
- AARP volunteers trained in fraud counseling at the free helpline: 877-908-3360.
- The AARP website: action.aarp.org/site/SPageNavigator/FWN_OperationProtectVeterans.html.
— Criminal Investigations Group,
Postal Inspection Service, 2-15-18