A majority of Americans see members of the military and are reminded of their bravery and sacrifices for our freedom. Unfortunately, unethical schemers view the unique lifestyles of military members and their families as being great targets for scams. Your Better Business Bureau of Western PA, through the efforts of BBB Military Line, provides free resources to military communities in the areas of financial literacy and consumer protection. 

The Better Business Bureau is a Partner in the Department of Defense Financial Readiness Campaign, as well as the “Joining Forces” initiative established by the White House. As a part of the “Joining Forces” initiative, BBB recently teamed up with McGraw-Hill to launch a free personal finance app for military families. BBB also has Memoranda of Understandings with the Army, Navy, Air Force and Marine Corp and is a Coast Guard Qualified Organization. 

“Pennsylvania is called home to about one million veterans and actually ranks third in the United States for number of personnel serving in the military and number of deployed National Guard troops,” says Warren King, president of the Better Business Bureau of Western PA. “Newly enlisted military are targeted by scammers for being a relatively younger demographic that may not have experience in managing consistent paychecks and veterans are targeted for their steady source of income and benefits.” 

BBB recommends that military members and veterans be on the alert for the following types of schemes that frequently target them and their families: 

  • Phishing emails or phone calls from contacts claiming to be from the Veterans Administration, saying they need to update credit card, bank or other financial records with the VA; 
  • Companies and individuals charging service members for services they could obtain for free or less expensively elsewhere such as military records; 
  • Fraudulent investment schemes that convince service members and veterans to transfer their assets into an irrevocable trust. 
  • Instant approval military loans (“no credit check” or “all ranks approved”) that can have high interest rates and hidden fees;Advertising housing online with military discounts and incentives, and then bilking service personnel out of the security deposit’ 
  • Trying to sell things like security systems to spouses of deployed military personnel by claiming the service member ordered it to protect his or her family; 
  • Selling stolen vehicles at low prices by claiming to be soldiers who need to sell fast because they’ve been deployed; 
  • Individuals posing as government contractors recruiting veterans, who ask for a copy of the job applicants’ passport (which contains a lot of personal information); 
  • Posing on online dating services as a lonely service member in a remote part of Iraq or Afghanistan, and then asking for money to be wired to a third party for some emergency.

BBB advises service members, veterans and all consumers never to give personal identification information (Social Security, bank account, military identification or credit card numbers, etc.) to anyone who contacts you by phone or e-mail, and to be wary of any solicitations that involve purchasing something or transferring money.

Start your search for a reputable business with trust with your Better Business Bureau. For more information on BBB Military Line, lists of BBB Accredited Businesses by industry and Business Reviews you can trust on local companies, visit www.bbb.org or call 877-267-5222.