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Be aware of scams that target veterans

The U.S. Postal Inspection Service is warning the nation’s veterans about scams specifically created and aimed at them.

“In addition to many of the same scams fraudsters use to target veterans, we’re now seeing more ‘timely’ scams, like those related to COVID,” Chief Postal Inspector Gary Barksdale said. “And as May is Military Appreciation Month, it’s a great time for everyone to become informed and spread the word about scams targeting veterans in order to, in some small way, help repay the tremendous debt we all owe those who have served.”

These scams include —

— COVID vaccination scams: Scammers will offer veterans a “cut in the vaccination line,” cash payments or other incentives around obtaining a COVID vaccination.

— Romance scams: Veterans and active-duty service members are tempting targets for “catfishing” romance scams, where scammers will utilize a picture of a service member posted online and create fake dating profiles to lure unsuspecting singles into giving up personally identifiable information and/or money.

— VA loan scams: Offers to refinance VA loans at extremely low rates.

— Update your file scam: An imposter, claiming to be from a government agency, attempts to get a veteran’s personal information to “update their file” so they can maintain their benefits.

— Secret veteran benefits scam: Veterans are told they qualify for “secret” government programs or benefits that offer thousands of dollars — but first, they attempt to collect personal information or a fee.

— Pension poaching scam: Scammers offer veterans lump sum payments up front in exchange for signing over all their future monthly benefit checks.

— Aid and attendance scam: Veterans or their family members receive an offer to move their assets into a living trust so they can qualify for financial assisted-living benefits.

According to an AARP survey, veterans are twice as likely to be targets of scammers as the general public. That is why the U.S. Postal Inspection Service joined with AARP to create Operation Protect Veterans, a crime prevention program designed to provide information and resources to veterans and military families nationwide about scams and fraud schemes specifically created for them.

What can veterans do to protect themselves? Operation Protect Veterans recommends:

— Don’t give any personal information over the phone to someone who contacts you. This includes bank account numbers, credit card numbers and Social Security number.

— Don’t be pressured into acting immediately.

— Always check out any offer with a family member, trusted friend, local Veterans Affairs office or local Better Business Bureau chapter.

— Contact your telephone service provider and ask what kind of services they offer to help you block unwanted calls.

— Sign up for real-time fraud alerts by going to the AARP Fraud Watch Network website at www.aarp.org/fraudwatchnetwork.

If you believe you have been scammed, don’t let shame prevent you from reporting it. Contact your local police, the U.S. Postal Inspection Service at www.uspis.gov or 877-876-2455 or AARP at protectveterans@aarp.org or 877-908-3360.

For more information on scams targeting veterans and how to defend against them, go online to http://www.uspis.gov/veterans/. To report a scam, go to https://www.uspis.gov/report/, or contact the AARP Fraud Watch Network at 877-908-3360 or www.aarp.org/fraudwatchnetwork.

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