On Veterans Day, we humbly and gratefully celebrate the service and sacrifice of over 18 million veterans. Unfortunately, scammers keep up with major holidays and headlines for very different reasons, adjusting their schemes to take advantage of whatever is currently capturing the public’s attention.
According to the Federal Trade Commission, veterans, service members and their families lost over $338 million to fraud between 2015 and 2019. Knowing the warning signs can help us all steer clear of scams.
These are some of the scams on the FTC’s radar taking advantage of current events:
Thinking of volunteering for a COVID-19 clinical trial? There are thousands of trials underway as companies race to find effective vaccines and treatments for COVID-19. Many of these research studies are legitimate, but some are not. Fake ones may try to steal your money. Never pay to be part of a clinical trial, or to find out about one. Real clinical trials will never ask you to pay them.
Have you gotten robocalls saying you overpaid utility bills? The callers say you’ll get a cash refund and a discount on your future bills. Not so fast. Hang up. This is probably just another utility scam — or, at best, a marketing trick — to get your money. Utility companies don’t usually give cash refunds. Instead, they credit the extra money to your account.
Are you having trouble paying your student loan debt? You might get an offer that says you can reduce your monthly payment, or even reduce your overall debt. The offer might look like it comes from the government…and they might tell you that, first, you have to pay a fee. But it’s illegal for a company to ask you to pay a fee up front before they get you the promised relief. And it’s illegal for them to pretend to be from the government. Because of the pandemic, people with federal student loans have some protections until December 31, 2020.
Want to keep one step ahead of the scammers? MilitaryConsumer.gov has helpful information for any stage of life, whether you’re launching your civilian career, enjoying retirement, or still serving in the Armed Forces. Encourage the veterans in your life to sign up for email updates to stay connected. And if you spot a scam, let the FTC know at ReportFraud.ftc.gov.