Soon we will be celebrating Veterans’ Day, a day we set aside to honor those who have served our country and to whom all Americans owe a debt of gratitude. However, for scam artists, Veterans’ Day is just another opportunity to take advantage of the best intentions of people and steal their money. In 2020, the Senate Committee on Aging held hearings in which they inquired about scams targeting veterans and members of the military. One witness testified at the hearing that veterans are twice as likely to be scammed than the general population.
Among the scams targeting all of us at this time of year are phony telephone calls that purport to be from various veterans’ organizations or charities seeking donations when, in fact, many of these calls will be from scammers seeking to steal money under false pretenses.
Another scam related to Veterans’ Day involves veterans receiving telephone calls purporting to be from the Veterans’ Administration asking for personal information necessary to verify or update the information of the VA. Of course, the call is not from the VA and the request for personal information is intended merely to gather such information in order to make the veteran a victim of identity theft.
This year in particular, following the passage of the PACT Act which expanded VA benefits and health care for veterans who were exposed to burn pits and other toxic substances, there have been numerous companies and lawyers offering assistance in filing for benefits for conditions related to such toxic exposures in return for a percentage of your benefit award. However, you don’t need to pay to file a claim. The VA can assist you or help you identify a VA-recognized organization or VA-accredited individual to help you with your claim. You can submit your application securely online via VA.gov. There is no cost for the forms and no fee to apply. VA will never charge you to apply for benefits. In addition, Veterans Service Organizations (VSOs) and representatives are available to assist in filing claims. To help guard against fraud and scams, validate the credentials of anyone offering to help you with a VA claim by using the Office of General Counsel’s Accreditation Search tool or by contacting your local representative or VA Regional Office
Even if you are on the federal Do Not Call List, which is a good thing to be on if you wish to avoid telemarketers, you are legally able to be called by charities. The problem is that whenever you receive a call purporting to be from a charity, you have absolutely no way of knowing if you are being contacted by a legitimate charity. Using a technique called “spoofing,” scammers can manipulate your Caller ID to make it appear that their calls are coming from legitimate sources such as charities. You also cannot know, without doing some research, whether the particular veterans’ charity that may be contacting you is legitimate or not.
As I often advise you, never give personal information such as credit card information to anyone over the phone if you have not made the call. If you are considering a gift to a particular charity, first check out the charity with http://www.charitynavigator.org to make sure that the charity is legitimate and also find out how much of the charitable donations they receive actually goes toward helping veterans and how much goes toward salaries and operating expenses of the charities. A good rule of thumb is to not give to charities that take more than 25% of what they collect for their own salaries and expenses. If after vetting a particular charity, you decide that you would like to make a donation, you can get the information from charitynavigator.org as to how to make your gift.
As for calls that you may receive purporting to be from the VA or any other governmental agency requesting information, you should never provide information over the phone to anyone because, as I indicated above, you can never be sure if the caller is who he or she says they are. In this case, you should contact the particular agency at a telephone number that you know is accurate to confirm whether or not the request for personal information was legitimate or not. Most of the time, the call will turn out to be a scam.
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