With Memorial Day behind us, and Independence Day looming ahead, the unofficial start of summer holds a special meaning to the military community.
Unfortunately, the stretch from Memorial Day to Independence Day is also a timely tool scammers use to grab the attention of service members, their families and supporters. Be sure to keep an eye out for signs of a scam when it comes to military charities and veteran-specific deals.
Around Memorial Day and the Fourth of July, many people decide to donate to a military charity. It’s important to research the organization, even a charity, before you donate. Not all charities are created equal and the ones that contact you may be the riskiest.
Here are a few potential warning signs:
- You’ve never heard of them before
- Caller can’t provide much information about the charity
- Caller asks for a lot of personal information
- You can’t find the charity website
- Charity wants you to wire money through a third party
Although scammers shouldn’t deter you from showing your military support with a donation, be sure you’re familiar with the charity and know the money will be going to a worthy cause. Do a little background research on the charity first and donate with the peace of mind that your donation will go to help the military community. Check with Charity Navigator or another legitimate charity evaluation tool.
A second common way scammers target the military community during the summer months is through “veteran-only” specials. These scammers are especially dangerous because they’re often after personal information and larger sums of money than charity scams.
These types of scams come in a number of forms, which can make them more difficult to spot. Whether someone is posing as a service member needing to sell their car on the cheap before deployment or a security company looking to oversell a military spouse on a security system during deployment, these scammers use the unique aspects of the military lifestyle to get your money and personal information.
Beware of anyone claiming you need to update your information for the VA. The Department of Veterans Affairs will never call and ask you to update any credit card or personal information over the phone. Similarly, be wary of anyone asking for personal information over the phone or through an email.
Another common scam targeted toward veterans is the promise of a no-credit check loan. Common signs of a scam are phrases like “no credit check,” “instant approval” and “no one turned away.” Even if these are actual loan companies, they often slap on ridiculously high interest rates in the fine print.
Finally, be careful of individuals who want to charge you for services you can get for free or nearly free as a service member or veteran. A common example is offering military documents at low cost, when many of them can be obtained for free through legitimate government agencies.
Keep these scams in mind over the coming weeks. The most important thing is to enjoy the great holidays and time with your family while keeping your donations and personal information safe.