Be Aware of Memorial Day Scams That Prey On Service Members and Vets, Says Better Business Bureau

May 22, 2014

Memorial Day is a holiday to remember those who have served or died for our country. However, it’s also an opportunity for scammers to take advantage of both active duty service members and elderly veterans. The Better Business Bureau (BBB) warns those who have served our country and those who care for them to do careful research before giving money to military discount programs and charities.

“Donating to a charity is a wonderful way to support the families of fallen soldiers, sailors and airmen,” says Steve J. Bernas, president & CEO of Better Business Bureau serving Chicago and Northern Illinois. “However, there are scammers who dishonor our military by ripping consumers off. It’s important to be cautious before giving money to organizations or individuals who claim to be affiliated with the military.”

A few examples of these scams include:

Military loans - Loans that guarantee instant credit approval or no credit check are usually paired with extra fees and high interest rates.

Military charities - Phony charities generally provide limited information, often use urgency as a pitch point and ask for money to be wired.

Rental properties - Advertisements may promote military discounts and request money be wired. However, the property shown is not what is available or the ad was fake and the money is lost. Either way, the consumer is ripped off.

Life insurance policies - Some solicitors offer unnecessary life insurance policies that often include misleading information.

Car sales - Fake discounts are typical scams that take advantage of military personnel. They may require a fee upfront and ask for a wire transfer or the car they are selling will be found to be in poor condition after the purchase is made.

The BBB offers some tips to avoid these scams:       

  • Research first. Get as much information as you can before you pay. If you cannot find reviews of the business anywhere on the internet, be wary as it is likely to be a scam.
  • Wire money with caution. Never wire transfer money to anyone you are not familiar with. Wire transfers are very hard to track which is why scammers use them frequently.
  • Use credit cards. Whenever possible, use credit cards. It is easier to track transactions, complain about charges and discuss charges with your credit card company.
  • Be careful what you click on. Do not click on links in emails from unfamiliar addresses and do not enter information on unfamiliar websites.
  • Can you find them on the internet? If you cannot find reviews of the business anywhere on the internet, be wary as it is likely to be a scam. Check the BBB Business Review  to see if the business has a good rating.  

The Better Business Bureau has a military arm called BBB Military Line. It provides free resources such as financial literacy information, services and scam alerts, along with complaint and dispute resolution to all military service members.

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The BBB is a non-profit, non-governmental organization.  It is supported by businesses to protect consumers against scams and other unethical business practices.  The group accomplishes this by educating both consumers and businesses, and by highlighting trustworthy businesses. By developing reports and ratings on businesses and charitable organizations, the BBB encourages people to use these as resources and referrals to utilize the free services before making a purchase or donation. The BBB helps resolve buyer/seller complaints through its alternative dispute resolution process. In 2013, the BBB provided more than 22,600,000 instances of service.  Over 80 percent of consumer complaints to the BBB were resolved. The Better Business Bureau serving Chicago and Northern Illinois is a member of the international BBB system that services the United States, Canada and Mexico.