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Watch out, Tampa Bay: Scammers prey on military, veterans and spouses, too

The military community was more likely to lose money to scams last year, according to a recent report. Fraudsters also pretend to be in the military themselves to gain the trust of would-be victims.
Un-American: People who are serving or have served their country are more likely to have lost money, and more of it, to scams.
Un-American: People who are serving or have served their country are more likely to have lost money, and more of it, to scams.
Published Nov. 10, 2021|Updated Nov. 10, 2021

Some disheartening news for Veterans Day: Active service members, military spouses and veterans are more likely to lose money — and more of it — to scams, according to a recent report.

Last year, the Better Business Bureau saw “higher rates of military consumers losing money to fraudsters,” the report said.

Veterans and military spouses reported a median loss of about $133 to scams in 2020, according to a study published by the Better Business Bureau Institute for Marketplace Trust. Active duty service members were hit hardest, with a median loss of $269.

For consumers in general, the number was $115.

With shopping from home popular in the pandemic, online purchase scams were “the riskiest scam type for service members and veterans,” according to the study — in particular, schemes involving buying puppies and other animals and supplies.

“I wanted this pet because I’m a military veteran who is in need of this pet,” wrote an unidentified consumer in a report to the Better Business Bureau about losing $270 for a schnauzer puppy that never came.

Military spouses were most at risk for employment scams advertising flexible, work-at-home jobs, the study found.

Employment scams often involve online job offers from real-sounding companies that are actually an attempt to glean personal and financial information or get the applicant to pay for expensive training or supplies. Some scams involve a new employee being overpaid with a fake check and getting asked to wire back the difference.

Scammers have also been known to identify themselves as service members to gain the trust of would-be victims, reports from consumers to the Better Business Bureau’s Scam Tracker show.

“They will give you a story about how they are ... religious and military veterans,” reported another unidentified complainant.

One consumer looking to purchase a puppy online found an ad about a “military family” raising and selling poodles not for the money but “the love of the breed,” according to the report. The skeptical buyer found an alert on a pet scam site.

Some tips from experts:

  • Be leery of anyone who wants you to act fast on a purchase.
  • Research whether a business or website is legitimate. You can also do a Google search of the name or type of business and the word “scam.”
  • If you suspect you’re not dealing with the well-known company listed in an ad, hang up, find the business’ legitimate number and call.
  • If someone insists you pay with a gift card or money transfer, don’t.
  • Never deposit a check and send money back to someone.
  • If something seems off, stop and talk about it with someone you trust.
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