by: ENC Better Business Bureau
RALEIGH, NC — The PACT Act, which passed last month, allows veterans and their families who claim exposure to toxic water at Camp Lejeune to sue the federal government. Veterans are a group that scammers tend to target. The Better Business Bureau Serving Eastern NC (BBB) urges veterans to be vigilant and cautious about who might try to do business with them. Other BBB offices in North Carolina have seen an increase in scams related to veterans and the PACT Act.
According to the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, PACT is a new law that extends VA health care and benefits to veterans exposed to fireplaces and other toxic substances.
The BBB Scam Tracker Risk Report 2021 showed that although the number of active duty military personnel exposed to a scam is nearly identical to the percentage of the general population reporting monetary loss; the susceptibility of the active duty military (60.7%) was about 42% higher than that of the general population.
Service members can visit Department of Veterans Affairs website for more information on the PACT law.
Common scams targeting service members:
- High Priced Military Loans – Advertisements for loans that promise a guarantee, instant approval or no credit check often come with hidden fees and extremely high interest rates. Remember that legitimate lenders will never guarantee a loan before you apply, and loans that require an upfront fee are likely a scam.
- Veterans Benefit Buyback Plans – This buy-back plan will offer a cash payment in exchange for a disabled veteran’s future benefits or pension payments. The cash amount is only about 30-40% of what the veteran is entitled to. These buyout plans can be structured in a number of different ways, so do your research thoroughly before signing on to anything.
- False rental properties – Stolen photos of legitimate rental properties are used in advertisements that promise military discounts and other incentives. Service members will have to pay a fee by bank transfer for security payments or a key to the property – in the end, they will receive nothing.
- Misleading car sales – Websites running classified ads will offer fake military discounts or claim to be from military members who need to sell their vehicle quickly since deployment. An initial charge will be required by bank transfer, otherwise the vehicle will have problems after purchase.
- Expensive life insurance policies – The military is often the target of high-pressure sales pitches that offer unnecessary and expensive life insurance policies. Lawyers can misrepresent the benefits of these policies.
Tips to avoid scams:
- Do your research – Get as much information as possible about a business or charity before you pay or donate. A good start to research would be to look at a company’s BBB business profile and/or see if the BBB has a charity report.
- Never transfer money to someone you don’t know – Money sent via wire transfer is virtually impossible to track. Pay or donate by credit card whenever possible, as you can dispute charges more easily.
- Protect your computer – Do not click on links in unsolicited emails. Do not enter personal information on unknown websites. Make sure you have up-to-date anti-virus software installed and use a firewall at all times.
- Put an Active Duty alert on your credit reports upon deployment – This will minimize the risk of identity theft, as creditors and businesses cannot issue or extend credit until they verify identity.
BBB military line provides free resources, such as financial literacy information, access to BBB services, Scam alerts, and complaint and dispute resolution for all branches of the US military.
Visit BBB Scam Tracker to track and report scams in your area.
For more reliable information, visit BBB.org.