July is Military Consumer Protection Month, and the New York State Division of Consumer Protection has some tips and advice on avoiding scams targeting service members and military families.
The rise in these scams take a variety of forms such as deceptive financial services, identity theft, online shopping, employment and even impersonation, officials said. 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, officials stated.
According to the Federal Trade Commission, fraud cost veterans, service members and their families $267 million in 2021, a 162% increase from the previous year, officials said. The median loss for military scam victims was $600, which is 20% higher than for the general public, according to the data.
“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.”
Scam prevention tips:
• Put an “active-duty alert” on your credit. If you are called to active duty, you can put this notice on your credit report to minimize your risk of identity theft. The active-duty alert requires businesses to verify your identity before issuing new credit and removes your name from marketing lists for unsolicited credit and insurance offers, for up to two years. The alert itself lasts one year, and is renewable.
• Watch out for false military discounts. There are many sellers and scammers who will try to play “military friendly” with you in order to make a sale. They may claim to be related to a service member who may have died in combat, a story designed to discourage you from looking too closely at the deal or negotiating in good faith.
• Do your research. Whether you’re buying a vehicle or renting property, do the proper research into what you’re buying and who is selling. Salespeople are trained to put pressure on a buyer, and scammers over the internet will often offer lower prices in order to trick you.
• Know who you’re dealing with. Scammers might try to approach service members via social media or other internet avenues, such as dating apps. They may pose as a friend or romantic interest in order to gain your trust. Never provide financial information or personal details to these people. Be suspicious of anyone who communicates exclusively through social media, messaging apps or email, especially if they refuse to give you any alternate contact methods.
For more information on avoiding scams or to file a consumer complaint, visit the Division of Consumer Protection at their website, www.dos.ny.gov/consumer-protection