Wyoming AARP is raising awareness of a scam targeting veterans and active-duty service members. The scam calls offers assistance in accessing PACT Act benefits, which was passed last year. The PACT Act expands health care and benefits to veterans who were exposed to toxic environments in the Vietnam, Gulf War, and post-9/11 eras.
“Veterans never have to pay for earned benefits or their service records and if someone tells you otherwise, they’re probably scamming you,” said Tom Lacock, associate state director for communications and state advocacy with Wyoming AARP. “What we know is that veterans and military adults are much more likely to be targeted for scans. The reason for that is they have some very unique health benefits. They have good retirement benefits. Scammers are aware of this, and so they have a tendency to be much more targeted than the civilian population.”
An AARP survey conducted earlier this year indicated that two thirds of veterans were unaware they could get free help for filing a PACT Act claim. It also indicated that one in six veterans surveyed had received a call claiming to be someone from the VA offering to assist them with doing so. VA officials told AARP they don’t conduct phone outreach campaigns regarding benefits, only if a veteran requests clarification on a pending claim. One in 10 veterans who received a call were promised a lucrative payout, a telltale sign of a scam, according to AARP.
“What we’re seeing is we’re seeing a lot of phone calls. There’s probably some advertising going on as well, in terms of ‘call this number to receive help,’ but by and large, the first thing that we have a tendency to see when we have a new scam is calls from a call center,” he said. “Scammers try to figure out what they can get in terms of how little, set up a little bit of trust, and then move on from there.”
AARP offers some tips that veterans and active-duty personnel can use to determine whether they’re the victim of a scam. These include signing up for the National Do Not Call registry, to use a call-blocking service, to not assume that advertisements from alleged law firms offering legal assistance with benefit claims are trustworthy, and never to sign a blank form or agreement with an attorney, law firm, or company without fully understanding what it is. Veterans also never have to pay for benefits or service records. If told otherwise, it’s a sign of a scam.
AARP also recommends working with veterans service providers they know, do not click on internet or social media ads that seem suspicious, and not provide any personal, medical, financial, or VA benefit information over the phone as federal agencies won’t make contact unless a request is made. Reports of these scams may be made to the VA benefits hotline at 1-800-827-1000 or by contacting the Federal Trade Commission at ftc.gov.