Nearly everyone has seen some form of scam in their email inboxes and voicemails. Veterans, however, are twice as likely to lose money to them.
A new survey released Wednesday by AARP’s Fraud Watch Network found that 16 percent of veterans have fallen victim to scam artists compared to just 8 percent of nonveterans.
“Unfortunately, the men and women who bravely served our country have become a prime target of telephone and online thieves,” said AARP Chief Executive Officer Jo Ann Jenkins, in a statement. “While veterans are bombarded by the same scam pitches we all receive, our research found that they’re also under special attack by a number of additional scams tailored just for them.”
The survey also found that veterans reported scams directly related to their military service or to benefits they receive. A whopping 80 percent of the veterans surveyed said they’ve encountered veteran-specific scams.
To combat this alarming statistic, the AARP and the US Postal Inspection Service are partnering together to launch Operation Protect Veterans, a nationwide campaign aimed at protecting veterans from being conned.
Starting in January, more than 30,000 post offices in the country will offer brochures that warn and provide advice to vets. They’ll also partner with some veteran groups to help get the word out.
“The US Postal Inspection Service is committed to protect our veterans from scammers who continuously prey upon them for their own illicit gains,” added Guy Cottrell, Chief Postal Inspector. “We will continue in our fraud prevention efforts to inform veterans about scam artists who fraudulently utilize advances in technology and tailor their pitches towards them.”
Particularly troubling is the fact that the scammers use military service against the veteran. According to the survey, veteran scam victims say they are more likely to trust a person who has served in the military. The victims also said they are more likely to donate to charities that say they support the military and veterans.
“To a savvy con-artist, stolen valor can be an extremely effective tool,” said AARP’s lead fraud researcher, Douglas Shadel, Ph.D. “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 in to their hearts and wallets.”