COLORADO SPRINGS — $414 Million, that’s how much money was stolen from veterans, active duty military members, and their spouses last year. That’s a $140 Million increase from the previous year.
Investigators say in many cases fraudsters are asking for investments and money to help fellow veterans, but they’re really just pocketing the cash.
For years now we’ve been hearing about calls like this and even door-to-door visits asking our veterans for their information and money.
In 2019 Chris Castle, a marine vet who served in Desert Storm told us he gave people money who said they were helping military members, but later he found out they were imposters.
“They asked for a donation to help provide care packages for active duty soldiers,” said Castle.
That same year Air Force veteran Joe Keough says he got a strange call that he reported to the attorney general’s office.
”They were asking for cash or vehicles for disabled veterans,” said Keough.
At Mt. Carmel Veterans Service Center Kelly White is working to try to help service families avoid losing money in fraud schemes.
”It’s upsetting to me being someone who had an active duty spouse and now we’re a veteran family,” said White.
She says hearing the testimonies of local military families who have lost money is heartbreaking because it can be life-changing.
”Veterans and military families are often on a fixed income so a large loss of money or even a small loss of money can mean they can’t pay their rent, utilities, or get food on the table for their family,” said White.
Even when it comes to sensitive information, White says she’s asking people with military experience to be more guarded.
”I always let veterans know especially when you call a veterans organization or a civilian organization they do not need your SSN they do not need your date of birth. Leave that information restricted because when you are on active duty everything is by your active duty social security numbers, so they readily give that information out not thinking any harm is going to come to them,” said White.
The staff at Mt. Carmel aims to be a trusted resource for military families in this fight to identify fraud and scams but say one of the biggest challenges they face is helping our service members overcome the stigma that surrounds asking for help.
”When they reach out, yeah there’s a lot of shame and there’s a lot of embarrassment because they think this shouldn’t have happened to me and so it’s really just letting them know we’re here to support you,” said White.
To connect with the Mt. Carmel Veterans Service Center visit https://www.veteranscenter.org/
AARP offers resources to help military members, veterans, and their families:
- The AARP “Watchdog Alert Handbook: Veterans Edition,” highlights tips for detecting the most common ways con artists target veterans and military families
- The AARP Fraud Watch Network and Scam-Tracking Map
- Operation Protect Veterans, a joint program of the AARP Fraud Watch Network and the U.S. Postal Inspection Service.
- Other useful resources include AARP’s The Perfect Scam
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