Your Money Matters: Avoiding financial scams targeting veterans

Nancy Coutu, Certified Financial Planner

Money Managers Financial Group
1211 W. 22nd Street, #800
Oak Brook
www.monimgr.com

Common Scams

IMPOSTER SCAMS
The Federal Trade Commission just put out a warning about the latest Imposter Scam targeting veterans who are making decisions about medical care.
Here’s the problem: Scammers have set up a phony telephone line that very closely resembles the Veterans Affairs “Veterans Choice Program” real telephone number. The program allows certain eligible vets to use approved health care providers who are outside of the VA system.
A message on the phony line says the caller is eligible for a rebate if they provide a credit card number, but instead their own account will be debited.
If you’re a veteran – or you’re helping one with health care – remember the VA – or any government agency – will not ask for your financial account information.

IDENTITY THEFT SCAMS
Identity theft scams can cause long-term damage. The most common way to be contacted is by phone or email. But a thief could also go through your mail or garbage, steal account numbers from a business or medical office or steal your wallet or purse.
The scammer will then use your personal information to open fake accounts (credit card, bank, phone and utilities).
You are responsible for the things the person does with your personal information, even if you don’t know what they are buying.
I recommend everyone check their credit report at least once a year to look for anything suspicious. You can get a free report from each of the three credit bureaus. I have a link on my website to get your free report.

DEBT COLLECTION SCAMS
The debt collection scam is when someone says they are from a collection agency and you need to pay off your debt or you’ll be arrested.
Make sure you verify the debt they are talking about is legitimate. Just because the person might have your name and Social Security number does not mean the debt is real.
Under the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act, a debt collector must provide you with a letter within five days after they first contact you.

BANKS AND LENDER SCAMS
These types of scams can come in many forms. Again, you might receive a call, email or letter in the mail.
The scammer could say they’re contacting you about a mortgage, issues with bank or credit union products, payday loans, student loans, auto title loans and other finance company lending products and services.
This type of scam is known for saying you’ve been approved for a loan even before your financial history is verified. The con artist will also use pressure tactics and even threats.
A reputable bank (one with a physical address, phone number, website) will never request you give money upfront or charge a fee to review a personal loan application.

PRIZES, SWEEPSTAKES AND LOTTERY SCAMS
If you receive a call, email or even a text message saying you’ve won a dream vacation, a car or money, it’s most likely it’s a scam.
Red flags for the prize scam are if the person says you have to pay taxes or some sort of shipping costs. They might even mail you a check that looks real, but it’s ultimately fake. When you cash it at your bank, you are accountable for the money you withdrew and will owe the bank that amount.
It’s actually illegal for a sweepstakes company to ask you to pay a fee or buy something to increase your chances of winning.

TIPS:

DO YOUR RESEARCH
Get as much information as you can about a business before you pay. There are a number of consumer groups where you can check out a company’s reputation or report fraud - like The Better Business Bureau and The National Consumers League. I have links to those groups on my website.

KEEP YOUR GUARD UP
Keep your guard up, even if the person on the other end of the line sounds nice and isn’t too aggressive. Scammers know how to build friendships over the phone.
The best rule of thumb is to never give out any personal information based on an unsolicited request.
And resist the pressure to make a decision on the spot.

AVOID WIRE TRANSFER
Never wire transfer money to someone you don’t know. Money sent by wire transfer is practically impossible to track. Pay by credit card whenever possible, since you can dispute charges much easier.

ACTIVE DUTY ALERT
When deployed, put an “Active Duty Alert” on your credit reports by contacting any of the three credit reporting agencies.
Doing so will help to minimize risk of identity theft because it requires lenders to verify your identity before approving new credit lines and removes your name from preapproved credit offers for two years.