The New York State Division of Consumer Protection (DCP) reminds active service members, veterans, and their families to be on alert for scams targeting the military community. The rise in these scams take a variety of forms such as deceptive financial services, identity theft, online shopping, employment and even impersonation, just to name a few. In recognition of Military Consumer Protection Month, DCP supports servicemembers by providing targeted scam prevention tips for the military community to empower them with actionable fraud prevention tips for greater awareness and control over their finances.
Scams are surging nationwide, and members of the military community are frequent targets of scammers. Many service members are young, often live away from home with frequent relocations and are managing their own finances for the first time. They collect steady paychecks and receive a range of benefits, which makes them attractive targets for opportunistic scammers. According to Federal Trade Commission (FTC) data, fraud cost veterans, service members and their families $267 million in 2021, an astonishing 162 percent increase from the previous year. Furthermore, the median loss for military scam victims was $600, which is 20 percent higher than for the general public.
“In 2021, New York State had more than 20,000 active service members, and we recognize their sacrifices and unique challenges,” said Secretary of State Robert J. Rodriguez, who oversees the Division of Consumer Protection. “We are grateful for their service and everything they do to protect our nation, so it is especially important that we shield these brave men and women from financial and reputational harm.”
"The men and women of our New York National Guard appreciate the consumer protection support provided by New York State, alongside the thousands of other service members stationed across our great State," said Major General Ray Shields, the Adjutant General of New York. "Highlighting these tips and raising awareness across the military helps strengthen individual and family preparedness to confront business scams designed to target our uniformed men and women. We thank New York state for placing attention on this important issue."
The NYS Division of Consumer Protection recommends the following scam precautions for active duty servicemembers to help identify when something isn’t right to ensure that they are prepared to protect their personal information, accounts, identity, and money from fraudulent practices.
SCAM PREVENTION TIPS FOR ACTIVE-DUTY SERVICE MEMBERS:
TIP #1: PREVENT IDENTITY THEFT BY USING AN “ACTIVE-DUTY ALERT”
The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) reports that active duty servicemembers file reports of identity theft at much higher rates than non-military consumers. If you are called to active duty, put an “Active-Duty Alert” on your credit report to minimize your risk for identity theft. Benefits include:
Businesses must verify identity before issuing new credit
Lasts one year but is renewable
Removes names from marketing lists for unsolicited credit and insurance offers for two years
To add an Active-Duty Alert on your credit report, contact any one of the three main credit reporting agencies. Once you have placed an Active-Duty Alert on your credit report with one of the bureaus, that bureau will send a request to the other two bureaus to do the same, so you do not have to contact all three. https://www.identitytheft.gov/#/CreditBureauContacts
TIP #2: PROTECT YOUR PURCHASES AND INVESTMENTS
No matter where you shop, you should do your research first. It’s important to search online for credible opinions from trusted sources and compare reviews from a variety of websites.
Know what to look for when buying or selling a vehicle:
A vehicle is one of the most expensive purchases you will make. If you are buying or selling a vehicle, below are a few red flags to look for:
Be skeptical of so-called “military friendly” sellers:
Scammers often do this to get you to let down your guard. Be wary of anyone that is offering an “incredible deal,” sometimes claiming to be the family of a servicemember who was recently deployed or died in combat. In both situations, the scammer is using servicemember affinity to discourage you from looking too closely at the deal or negotiating in good faith.
Be cautious of fake websites or fake listings:
These fake websites often post ads that offer false discounts for military personnel and upfront fees that require a wire transfer.
Scammers often list vehicles for sale on online marketplaces like eBay, Facebook, and Craigslist. The scammers collect a deposit or the advertised price of the vehicle and then disappear.
If you’re buying:
Research the vehicle and its cost. Some dealers try to overcharge service members, offer unfavorable terms, or add on expensive optional products, like paint protection, service contracts or Guaranteed Asset Protection (GAP) insurance.
Don’t act on impulse or pressure. Salespeople will often want you to buy the car immediately but take the time to research the price and check out the car carefully, including getting a used vehicle history report.
If you are selling or trading in a vehicle, use a resource like Kelley Blue Book, Edmunds, or the National Automobile Dealers Association’s Guides to determine how much your current car is worth.
If financing, do extensive research to understand your options. Be wary of “instant approval” military loans (“no credit check,” “all ranks approved”) that can have high interest rates and hidden fees.
Learn to identify fake rental properties:
Scammers will often steal a photo from the internet to create a fake rental listing in an effort to steal your deposits or the private information on your rental application. Be cautious of listings that are advertising an unusually low rent or are much nicer than other properties at that price point. Make sure to pay any application fees or deposits by check or credit card. If you are required to pay a fee via wire transfer or money transfer app to see the property, it’s usually a fake.
TIP #3: KNOW WHO YOU ARE DEALING WITH
Imposter scam artists will often portray themselves as someone they are not to trick you into giving them your personal information or money. They may pose as a friend on social media, a romantic interest on a dating app, or a fellow service member to gain your trust. If anyone reaches out to you over social media, email, phone, text, or dating apps and asks for money or financial information, ignore them, and report the fraud. Never provide personal or financial information to someone if you did not initiate contact with them. These are often attempts to steal your identity and gain access to your money.
If a debt collector contacts you and you don’t recognize the company or the debt, first request information to ensure the debt collector and the debt are both legitimate. Unscrupulous debt collectors will often insist you owe a debt even if you don’t.
Be wary if you are asked to pay in an unusual manner, such as a money transfer app or by using a reloadable gift card. These methods are untraceable, and it’s nearly impossible to get your money back.
Be suspicious of anyone who communicates exclusively through social media, messaging apps or email. Be especially wary of those who refuse to give you alternate methods to contact them.
New York State Division of Consumer Protection serves to educate, assist, and empower the State’s consumers. If you’ve been a victim of identity theft, a scam or have questions about whom you are dealing with, contact the Division’s Consumer Assistance Helpline at 1-800-697-1220 on Monday through Friday from 8:30am to 4:30pm, excluding State Holidays. You may also file a consumer complaint any time at https://dos.ny.gov/consumer-protection.
For more consumer protection tips, follow the Division on social media at Twitter: @NYSConsumer and Facebook: www.facebook.com/nysconsumer.