Don’t let Memorial Day scams mar the honoring of Military Service: The Better Business Bureau

CHICAGO, IL – Memorial Day is a day we honor those who serve our country, have served our country and those who have died while serving; it is also a time of opportunity for scammers. Unfortunately, these operators have found Memorial Day to be an opportunity to take advantage of caring people, especially elderly veterans.

“Contributing to charities that assist the families of fallen soldiers, sailors and airmen is a wonderful way to honor them,” said Steve J. Bernas, president and CEO of the Better Business Bureau serving Chicago and Northern Illinois. “However, there are scammers who dishonor our military by trying to take advantage of people’s desire to salute the military. As despicable as that is, it makes it necessary for good people to be cautious about contributing to charities that may be more interested in enriching their own operations than paying honor to our military.”

A few examples of 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 for individuals at risk:

  • 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 to get money.
  • Use credit cards. Whenever possible, use credit cards. It is easier to track transactions, complain about charges and discuss charges with your bank.
  • 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.

Scammers don’t only target those who want to honor the memory of the fallen but target active duty service members as well.

William E. Braun Jr., Financial Educator and Counselor for the Navy, says,

“Frequently, when military members fall victim to financial and consumer scams, it is due to youthful inexperience or a lack of financial literacy. My advice to all military personnel is to get well acquainted with the military assistance resources available to them.”

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.

If you have experienced a scam, report it to your local BBB at www.bbb.org