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Military members and their families becoming a more popular and lucrative target for fraudsters

FTC: Military consumers lost $125 Million to scams in 2020
Military members a popular and lucrative target for fraudsters
Posted at 5:00 AM, Jul 30, 2021
and last updated 2021-07-30 10:29:57-04

COLORADO SPRINGS — During the month of July consumer protection advocates across the country have been working to raise awareness about the uptick in scams targeting members of our military, their families, and veterans. News5 takes a deep dive into how fraudsters are manipulating military members and even using them to steal from other people.

For years fraudsters have targeted members of the military and veterans ripping them off for large amounts of money, but according to Better Business Bureau Scam Tracker Data 2020 was the first year military families were actually more likely to lose money in a scam than a non-military consumer.

Air Force veteran Joe Keough says he answered a random call about making a donation to help a military charity.

"They were asking for cash or vehicles for disabled veterans," said Keough.

But something felt off, so he looked a little deeper and realized the whole thing was bogus.

"As a result of that, I was able to put together a statement of facts and sent it to the State Attorney General's office," said Keough.

According to the 2020 BBB Scam Tracker Risk Report active duty military members, military spouses, and veterans lost more money and were more susceptible to scams than non-military consumers.

"Our community is heavily populated by military families so whether that's active duty, spouses, veterans and retired individuals and so it's so important to get the education and awareness out," said Adah Rodriguez of the BBB of Southern Colorado.

The Federal Trade Commission reports in 2020 military consumers lost more than $41 Million to imposter scams, more than $12 million to prize, sweepstakes, and lottery scams, and another $8 million to online purchase scams. Military scam losses ended up being $125 Million in 2020.

"Our military families that move to an area that's new to them are often targeted by door to door sales contractors using high pressure tactics and taking advantage of the fact that this family may not know much about the community," said Rodriguez.

In addition to targeting military personnel fraudsters will also pose as active service members to steal from people.

Recently on an online gaming platform, a women made a connection with someone who introduced himself as military general Stephen Townsend, stationed in Afghanistan, but according to police he was an imposter.

"This poor guy.he's got this established military career but scammers are using his name for love schemes," said Detective Steve Craig of the Springfield Township Police Department in Pennsylvania who is investigating this case.

Caught up in this romance scheme, the woman ended up sending the fraudster $305,000 in checks.

"The military one is one we see a lot because. One because it has that overseas element. But, two, people have that strong affinity for the military," said AARP Spokesperson Seth Boffeli.

July is military consumer month so during the last several weeks consumer protection advocates have been sharing a bunch of different resources and advice to help our military families and neighbors.

Here are some of the places you can find resources to help you or to share with military families in your life:

Better Business Bureau Military & Veterans Initiative
https://www.bbb.org/pacific-southwest/bbb-community-education-events/military-line/

Stop Fraud Colorado Consumer Guide for Military Personnel and their families:
https://www.stopfraudcolorado.gov/fraud-center/military-fraud/Military%20Guide.pdf

Federal Trade Commission Military Consumer Month Resources:
https://www.consumer.ftc.gov/blog/2021/07/military-consumer-month-2021