How the scam works:
Scammers generally contact veterans via phone, email, or messaging apps like Facebook Messenger. They claim to be representing a special government program for veterans. This alleged program may be loan forgiveness, mortgage aid, or even a “grant” meant to pay living expenses.
No matter the offer, scammers typically use similar tactics. They claim that, as a veteran, you qualify for thousands of dollars of government aid, no strings attached. All you must do is pay a one-time processing fee, typically through a pre-paid debit card or digital wallet app, which is harder to trace.
If you pay the “processing fee,” scammers will likely come up with believable reasons for you to pay a second fee and a third, all so you can get an even larger “grant.” Unfortunately, the money doesn’t exist, and you will lose anything you pay them forever.
Sometimes, scammers want your personal information in addition to your money. That way, they have everything they need to commit identity theft. One veteran reported the following experience to BBB: “Someone named Anna… got me to pay a processing fee of about $900 for the “Public Service Loan Forgiveness Program” since I’m a US Army veteran. Anna did not email me anything until I gave her all my personal information, including my Social Security number, birth date, etc. She gave me several websites to “prove” their legitimacy. Unfortunately, I gave Anna all of my personal information, including credit card info.”
How to avoid scams targeting veterans:
Do research first. No matter how good an offer sounds, don’t agree to anything immediately without doing research. Look up the program the person is claiming to represent. Read reviews or veteran experiences by doing a general search online. Search the government program along with the word “scam” to see if anyone has reported it as a fraud. Look to official government websites like USA.gov/benefits and USA.gov/military-assistance to see if the program exists.
Don’t give in to pressure. Anyone with a legitimate aid program won’t mind if you need some time to think things over and do some research. Scammers often pressure people to act right away, claiming that if they need time to think about it, they’ll miss their chance. High-pressure tactics are a clear sign you’re dealing with a con artist.
Be wary of unsolicited offers. The government will not contact you out of the blue with an offer. Usually, government communications come through the mail, not over the phone or through email, and certainly not through a messaging app. Even if you receive a letter about a government program, be cautious if you haven’t already requested information.
Never pay upfront for a loan or grant. If someone asks you to pay upfront for a loan or a free grant, don’t do it. You should never pay for a free service for veterans, nor should you have to pay for a loan before you receive the money.
Watch out for mortgage scams. Scammers may be after your money with mortgage aid scams, or they could be attempting deed theft. In any case, if you are offered a special mortgage aid program, from the government or not, do plenty of research before agreeing to anything.
Never give personal information or send money to a stranger. Make sure you are dealing with a trusted source before sharing personal information. Never send money to someone you don’t know and trust.
For more information:
Get up-to-date information on government benefits for veterans at VA.gov. Read more about how government impostor scams work in this BBB impostor scams study and review the BBB Tip: How to avoid impostor scams.
If you’ve been the victim of a scam, please report it to BBB.org/ScamTracker. Sharing your experience can help others avoid falling victim to similar scams.