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BBB: How to defend military families from financial threats

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Photo illustration Courtesy photo

Americans pause to remember those who made the ultimate sacrifice for their nation on the last Monday of every May.

Memorial Day reminds us to be grateful for what so many service members have done for our country.

But even while many are reflecting on the heroism of those in uniform, there are those who are targeting service members and their families with scam attempts.

Here are some of the reasons why military members are frequently targeted by scammers:

▪ A steady and predictable paycheck is always a magnet for scammers, especially one that is guaranteed by the U.S. government.

▪ Extended time away from home during deployments (and the mission focus required) can lead to giving less thought to daily personal financial matters.

▪ Financial strains can be aggravated by frequent family moves and stretched incomes. Scammers know that a family under financial pressure is more susceptible to “easy money” scams.

Watch for these scams

The Better Business Bureau warns military members and their families of these common scams frequently aimed at them:

▪ Veterans Administration imposters. By email or phone, someone will claim to be from the VA. They will want you to give them your credit card, bank or other financial information so that they may “update their records.” The object is to steal the information from you that will then allow them to steal your money.

▪ “Instant approval” military loans. The offer may come with claims that there is no credit check and “all ranks approved.” Such loans will probably have high interest rates, hidden fees or a demand for an up-front fee. Legitimate lenders will never require an up-front fee or offer loans with guaranteed pre-approval.

▪ Buyout plans for veteran benefits. Such schemes will actually pay you only 30 to 40 percent of the money you are entitled to.

▪ Unnecessarily expensive life insurance. There may be false promises of benefits. Remember that high-pressure sales tactics usually mean a rip-off.

▪ Military discount housing. Often requiring an up-front wire transfer or a fee, many of these offers will then give you nothing in return. They often tempt with fake photos of apartments or houses.

▪  Military discount car sales. In return for a required up-front wire transfer, an inferior or stolen vehicle may be all that you get.

Protection advice

To keep scammers and rip-off artists at bay, always remember these tips:

▪ Up-front fees are bad news.

▪ Never wire money to someone you do not know.

▪ Get the total price. Watch out for misleading information.

▪ Don’t give in to high-pressure sales tactics.

▪ Get everything in writing. Don’t trust mere verbal promises.

▪ Check out the company with the BBB before agreeing to anything.

▪ Don’t trust telemarketers or house calls. The VA does not use telemarketers or make house calls. Trust no one who claims they are from the VA without showing you proof.

Use the BBB’s Military Line to find out about more issues and benefits for military families. Look over the Military Line Facebook Page for information that can help service members and their families.

Denise Groene is the state director of the Better Business Bureau of Kansas. Contact the bureau at 800-856-2417 or