Service Members, Vets Scammed Out of $405M Since 2012

(Image: Shutterstock)

Nearly one million active military personnel and veterans have been the target of scams that have cost them about $405 million since 2012, according to a report from Comparitech.

The Army was hit the hardest with more than half a million individuals impacted and more than $142 million lost, the report says. The Navy came in second with roughly 143,000 people impacted and more than $62 million stolen. As for the other branches – Air Force, Marine Corps, and Coast Guard – nearly 200,000 people were impacted and roughly $70 million was lost.

Veterans, regardless of which branch they served in, were the most heavily targeted and accounted for 60 percent of incident reports, and more than 55 percent of total financial losses.

The report broke down the most commonly seen scams:

Impostor Scams

Impostor scams, which account for the second-most money lost, involve cybercriminals impersonating a wide array of people, from romantic partners to officials from the Defense Department.

“Scammers pose as authority figures in the soldier’s military branch or the Department of Defense or Veterans Affairs,” the report noted. “They might phish for information that can be used in identity theft or demand some sort of payment.”

Employment Scams

Employment scams target veterans looking for their next career. “Scammers will contact veterans looking for jobs to offer them employment, often in a work-from-home environment,” the report explained. “The newly hired victim is then instructed to purchase some necessary work equipment from a third party. The ‘employer’ sends a check to cover the costs. The reality is that scammers run the website where the equipment is purchased. The victim pays for equipment that they never receive, and the check sent to cover the costs bounces.”

Advance Fee Scams

The advance-fee scam, commonly known as the “Nigerian Prince scam,” trick victims into paying money to someone in anticipation of receiving something of greater value. The report highlighted a specific incident of this scam being used against service members.

“A scammer posing as a VA official contacted service members who had signed up for a veteran retraining program (VRAP),” the report noted. “The scammer promised a large sum of money would be deposited into the victim’s account once they had paid a smaller service fee. In fact, the service fee was pocketed by the scammer and the victim never received anything.”

Identity Theft

Cybercriminals target service member and veteran identities in order to steal benefits or commit other fraud.

“Tax fraudsters file tax returns under soldiers’ names, claiming returns that are far and above what they should be receiving,” the report said. “Once the victim receives their tax return, scammers contact them claiming to be working on behalf of the IRS. They instruct the victim to pay back a portion of the return to a fraudulent account. The victim then gets in trouble with the IRS for filing a false tax return, and the scammer receives the refunded amount,” the report said.

Kate Polit
About Kate Polit
Kate Polit is MeriTalk's Assistant Copy & Production Editor covering the intersection of government and technology.

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