Operational security is second nature as a veteran. You'd never consider giving up information that would compromise the mission. Do you give your personal and financial security the same amount of attention? Scammers may think veterans are an easily targeted group, but you can avoid being targeted for fraud by taking a few steps.
Some of the common techniques for scamming veterans are by taking advantage of their financial situation and their reliance on disability payments from the Department of Veterans Affairs. Veterans frequently get phishing emails and phone calls from people pretending to be associated with their military-affiliated bank. There's no end to what people will try to steal identity or money.
How to Avoid It
It is possible to avoid financial fraud, but it takes some diligence and hard work on your end. It's important to know what to look for when embarking on an employment search, carefully screening phone calls and email, and remember that you don't have to give out personal information to anyone.
Fake job applications are one way scammers can get your information. Never put your Social Security number on a job application and keep an eye out for red flags. Jobs that ask you for money down or promise big rewards immediately are usually scams.
Be careful with the information you give out over the phone. If you're doubting the validity of the phone call, ask them for a number to call them back. If this company has never called you before, don't blindly trust that this is their new way of communicating. Don't hesitate to hang up on unsolicited phone calls -- or just don't answer them. If you get questionable emails, check to see who they are from, including the email address. Don't click on any links or give any information via email.
Fraudsters and scammers will also use social media to try to trap you. If you get a friend request from someone you are already friends with, don't accept. If a friend asks you an odd question or requests money from you, reach out to them a different way.
Some scammers may attempt to lure you in by pretending to be a romantic interest. Tread very carefully here, as scammers have been doing this for years. In 2021, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) reported that losses to romance scammers increased 80% compared to the previous year, bringing the five-year total loss to $1.3 million.
As part of the military community, you know when things seem odd, like when someone asks for money to go on leave -- which doesn't happen. Protect yourself from romance scams and don't ever send money to someone you don't know.
One popular way for scammers to target veterans is by promising them veteran discounts on properties and requesting payments. Don't send payments to anyone without consulting a lawyer or reviewing all the documents and processes beforehand. Another place scammers can get information is from phishing websites set up to replicate veteran benefits -- so make sure you are visiting a verified site.
How to Protect Yourself Online
Sometimes, veterans make it easy for people to find information on them, and that's the main thing you can control. Don't give out unnecessary information and keep close tabs on places where your information may be stored.
Identity Theft Protection
Somewhere between 9 million and 15 million Americans are victims of identity theft each year according to FTC estimates, including a buffer for unreported cases. So it's important to make sure you are preventing this kind of theft wherever possible. Here are some ways to do it:
Register for the Do Not Call List
Make sure your number is on the "do not call list," and if it's not, sign up for it today.
You may also want to take the time to unsubscribe to any email lists you don't need. Don't click on any spam or submit your email without reading the fine print.
Adjust Your Privacy Settings
If you use social media, look at what other people can see of your profile and adjust accordingly. You can do this in the settings tab of each platform. Remember that answering questions on social media like, "What's the name of your first pet?" can be one way that scammers gather information on your password.
Outsource the Task
If you don't particularly want to be bothered with the constant monitoring of all the accounts and possible ways scammers could get you, consider outsourcing it. A variety of companies are available to help you keep track of your personal security online. And all price points can vary widely, giving a trustworthy company the reigns on your online security is an easy way to make sure the task gets done.
Keep More of Your Money
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