The General Accountability Office (GAO) which issues unbiased and extremely important studies on behalf of the federal government recently issued its report about the efforts of the Department of Veterans Affairs to protect disabled veterans from being scammed.  The VA paid 3.2 billion dollars in benefits to 232,000 disabled veterans in 2018 and the majority of that money went to veterans over the age of 85 who are prime targets for scammers.  The GAO found that the most prevalent scams involved veterans being overcharged for home care or charged for services they did not even receive and financial exploitation by phony investment advisors.  Unfortunately, the GAO concluded that the VA is not doing enough to protect these veterans from being scammed.  Specifically, the GAO criticized the VA’s lack of gathering and analyzing data related to scams perpetrated against disabled veterans.  The GAO also found fault with the VA for failing to warn veterans about common scams related to veterans benefits and for not taking enough steps to insure that the payments due to disabled veterans are not misdirected by scammers.

TIPS

The GAO made four  specific recommendations to the VA including that the VA collect better information on financial exploitation scams, post warnings about such scams on VA applications and look into better verification procedures for direct deposit payments to be made to veterans’ bank accounts.  Meanwhile, the question becomes what do you do if you or a family member is receiving veterans’ benefits in order to be better protected from scams.

No one should ever invest in anything without totally understanding the investment and the inherent risks. All investment decisions should be made  only after being properly informed. Research thoroughly before you invest any investment you are considering.  You  also may want to check out the SEC’s investor education website at www.investor.gov.

Before investing with anyone, you should also investigate the person offering to sell you the investment with FINRA’s Central Registration Depository.  http://www.finra.org/industry/crd   This will tell you if the broker is licensed and if there have been disciplinary procedures against him or her.  You can also check with your own state’s securities regulation office for similar information.  Many investment advisers will not be required to register with the SEC, but are required to register with your individual state securities regulators.   You can find your state’s agency by going to the website of the North American Securities Administrators Association.http://www.nasaa.org/2709/how-to-check-out-your-broker-or-investment-adviser/

In regard to protecting yourself from scammers who indicate that they will provide health care services or equipment, you should also investigate the person or company before doing business with them.  Check if there are complaints with the FTC and your own state’s attorney general.  You also should do a search engine search about the company in which you include the word “scam” in your search and see what you come up with.  Just as in investigating financial advisors, you should also investigate health care or equipment providers before doing business with them.

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