By Veterans Advantage
Scammers target a variety of vulnerable groups and demographics around the country, but particularly the military community. Because of the large number of agencies that support over 10 million Cold War veterans, scam organizations find it easy to disguise their own as one of the many legitimate agencies. It is important that Veterans are aware of these fraudulent scams and learn how to best identify and prevent them from taking advantage of the military community and their families.
- Use Google and other search engines to perform your own background check. Most organizations have their own online website or at least some online content written about them. Use search engines to investigate an organization.
- Never provide personal or financial information to an unsolicited caller. Scammers have been known to make unsolicited calls posing as volunteers for the Department of Veteran Affairs. The Department of Veteran Affairs has stated that they "simply do not call Veterans and ask them to disclose personal financial information over the phone."
- Always contribute by check. If approached by an organization you deem reputable, always contribute by check, not cash. Write the check to the organization, and never to the individual soliciting the donation. You should always ask for a receipt and a statement that the contribution is tax deductible.
- Prevent Unsolicited Calls and Requests. Respond to unsolicited requests by asking them to mail you information to evaluate their offer and legitimacy on your own time. A credible charity will be happy to give you literature about its work. If they do not comply, ask them to delete your phone contact information from their records.
- Check the IRS's list of registered non-profit companies and charities and confirm the charitable background of companies that solicit donations. In the past, scammers have masked themselves as part of charitable organizations that benefit veterans and requested "donations". One such example is the case of the U.S. Navy Veterans Association, which is currently being investigated in nine states on allegations of deception and fraud. This rogue organization collected over $100 million from citizens who thought they were contributing to a legitimate veterans' charity—99% of the funds are now unaccounted for.