Scammers try to make victims of the valorous.

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We’re all too familiar with how pervasive scams are in today’s marketplace, whether it’s the IRS imposter scam, tech support scam, or that winning lottery check that’s just waiting for you.

But according to a new survey, con artists may be saving the worst of their pitches for a special group of Americans: those who have served our country.

The new nationwide survey by AARP shows that military veterans are falling prey to scams at a higher rate than the general public. To make matters worse, scammers are serving up a special battery of scams directed specifically towards veterans and their years of service.

Scammers call retired soldiers, sailors, Marines and airmen, claiming to be from official government offices, offering access to special veterans-only benefits, an offer to refinance your VA loan at rock-bottom rates, or maybe it’s just a simple request to update your military file.  But in the end, all they are doing is trying to find a way to steal veterans’ personal information and their hard-earned money.  According to AARP’s survey, a majority of veterans report they have received one or more of the most common scams targeted at vets.

“If there’s one thing we know about scammers, it’s that they’re just as heartless as they are diabolical,” says AARP State Director Doug Shadel.  “With advances in technology, scam artists have become much more sophisticated at tailoring their pitches and zeroing in on their targets.”

In addition to showing how increased targeting may be leading to higher victimization rates among veterans, the survey also explored how victims of these scams differ from the general public.  For instance, scam victims say they are more likely to trust a person who has previously served in the military, plus they are more likely to donate to charitable fundraisers who claim to be supporting our servicemen and veterans.

“To a savvy con artist, stolen valor can be an extremely effective tool,” says Shadel.  “We’ve heard from a number of former and current scam artists who tell us they specifically target vets with false claims of military service brotherhood, or that they know patriotism among vets can be a powerful window into their hearts and wallets.”

To combat the growing problem of scams targeting veterans, AARP joined the U.S. Postal Inspection Service to launch “Operation Protect Veterans.”  The organizations are asking veterans and their families to look for suspicious emails, phone calls or traditional mail that target veterans and report it.

Even if you or your loved ones didn’t fall for the scam, please still report it — we need to know what con artists are up to so we can better protect each other.

Consumer experts are aware of some recent veterans scams, but we need to know just how pervasive they are and if there are any new approaches we need to be on the lookout for.  Some cons  include:

  • Government grant program — An offer for you to take advantage of a little-known government program for military that could result in thousands of dollars in increased benefits.
  • Cash for VA payments — An offer to receive an immediate, large lump sum of cash in return for signing over your monthly VA or disability benefits.
  • Tax debt relief — An offer for veterans to reduce taxes you may owe.
  • Student Loan — An offer for you to go back to school and have it paid for because of your military service.
  • Medical bills help — An offer to receive help with medical bills because of your military service.
  • Drug discounts — An offer for you to get help paying for prescription drug medication because of your military service.
  • Help with assisted living — An offer to help you qualify for nursing home or assisted living benefits because of your military service.
  • Free back, leg or arm brace — An offer to pay for a free back brace, arm brace or leg brace because of your military service.
  • Cremation or burial services — An offer to purchase cremation or burial services at a discount because of your military service.

If you see something suspicious, send us an email describing the potential scam to protectveterans@aarp.org. Or simply call  855-800-9023 and leave a detailed message.  Your reports will be used for consumer education purposes only. Your name will not be made public.

AARP is the nation’s largest nonprofit, nonpartisan organization dedicated to empowering Americans 50 and older to choose how they live as they age. Access AARP’s Fraud Watch Network to get more information about how to protect yourself and your family.