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Scams aimed at veterans, caregivers and donors cheat and dishonor vets service

CHICAGO — The Better Business Bureau (BBB) is warning veterans and their families of scams that may be targeting them. The scams also target those with plans to donate to a military or veteran-related cause. The BBB says veterans and civilians who are planning to donate to a charity for Veterans Day should use caution; and recommends that they research the organization and check with the BBB.

“While these types of scams represent the most common there can also be several variations of them,” said Steve J. Bernas, president & CEO of Better Business Bureau serving Chicago and Northern Illinois. “It’s important to remember, never give money to someone online or over the phone when you aren’t 100 percent certain where it’s going or what your donation will be used toward.”

The most common veteran scams include:

• Charging veterans for services they could get for free or less expensively elsewhere, such as military records.

• Fraudulent investment schemes that convince veterans to transfer their assets into an irrevocable trust.

• Offering “instant approval” military loans (“no credit check,” “all grades and ranks approved”) that can have high interest rates and hidden fees.

• Advertising housing online with military discounts and incentives then cheating service personnel out of the security deposit.

• Trying to sell things like security systems to spouses of deployed military personnel by saying the service member ordered it to protect his or her family.

• Selling stolen vehicles at low prices by claiming to be soldiers who need to sell fast because they’ve been deployed.

• Posing as government contractors recruiting veterans and then asking for a copy of the job applicants’ passport (that contains important personal information).

• Posing for online dating services as a lonely service member in a remote part of Iraq or Afghanistan, and then asking for money to be wired to a third party for some emergency.

If you plan on donating to a military-affiliated charity this year, here are some tips on how to avoid scams:

• Watch out for charities that sound similar to more well-known ones. Many fake veterans’ charities include the same words in different order or form to appear legitimate.

• Look for a clear description of the organization’s programs in its appeals and on its website. If the charity says it’s helping veterans, does it explain how (financial assistance, shelter, counseling) and where it is doing so?

• Telemarketing can be a costly method of fundraising unless carefully managed. If called, do not hesitate to ask for written information on the charity and its finances before making a decision.

• Be wary of excessive pressure in fundraising. Don’t be pressured to make an immediate on-the-spot donation. Legitimate charities will welcome your gift whenever you want to send it.

• If donating clothing or other goods, find out how the charity benefits from the collection and re-sale of gifts.

Check first before giving for free with charity monitoring services like BBB’s give.org.

For more tips on scams, visit www.bbb.org.

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