Sadly, servicemembers, veterans and their families are sometimes targeted by cons who seek to take advantage of their service.
These frauds can take a variety of forms. Often, scammers who target military consumers will falsely imply that they are somehow associated with the military or the government to instill trust or gain leverage. For example, the FTC has taken action against a debt collector that allegedly used threats when attempting to collect from servicemembers. A military consumer reported that a collector posed as a "military liaison," threatened to disclose a debt to the consumer's commander, and told the consumer that indebtedness is grounds for dismissal. In another case, one of the country's largest refinancers of veterans' home loans allegedly misled consumers about having an affiliation with the Department of Veterans Affairs.
There are also fraudulent nonprofits that feed off the public's respect for servicemembers and veterans. One sham nonprofit allegedly gathered donations by falsely claiming to send care packages to veterans in VA hospitals, support veterans memorials, and provide financial assistance to the families of American soldiers fighting overseas. The FTC's law enforcement actions have shut down these scams.
Enforcement helps, but servicemembers also need tools to protect themselves from fraudsters who will continue to try to take advantage. The FTC received almost 73,000 complaints from the military community last year, so we are collaborating with various government agencies and private organizations to sponsor Military Consumer -- which provides free information and advice to servicemembers and their families.
Advice on Military Consumer includes: tips to help veterans protect their pensions from poachers, steps to help deployed servicemembers place an active duty alert on their credit reports to help minimize the risk of identity theft, and questions to ask when looking to earn a degree.
On July 16, 2014, the FTC is celebrating the second annual Military Consumer Protection Day, along with the Department of Defense's Office of the Secretary of Defense, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, and over 30 public and private sector organizations. Jointly we are working to make sure that active and retired military consumers have access to free resources that help them avoid scams, deal with identity theft, and manage their finances.