Tue Jul 19, 2022 5:15 p.m.
Secretary of State Robert Rodriguez offers advice on raising awareness to help prevent fraud
√ July is Military Consumer Protection Month
By the New York State Division of Consumer Protection
The New York State Division of Consumer Protection (DCP) reminds active service members, veterans and their families to be on the lookout for scams targeting the military community. The increase in these scams takes various forms, such as deceptive financial services, identity theft, online shopping, employment, and even identity theft, to name a few.
In recognition of Military Consumer Protection Month, DCP is supporting the military by providing targeted scam prevention advice to the military community to give them practical fraud prevention tips for greater awareness and control over their finances.
Scams are on the rise across the country, and members of the military community are frequently targeted by scammers. Many service members are young, often living away from home with frequent moves, and managing their own finances for the first time. They earn regular salaries and receive a range of benefits, making them attractive targets for opportunistic scammers. According to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) Data, fraud cost veterans, service members and their families $267 million in 2021, a stunning 162% increase over the previous year. Additionally, the median loss for victims of military scams was $600, 20% more than for the general public.
“As of 2021, New York State had more than 20,000 active military personnel, and we recognize their unique sacrifices and challenges,” said Secretary of State Robert J. Rodriguez, who oversees DCP. “We are grateful for their service and all they do to protect our nation, so it is especially important that we protect these brave men and women from financial and reputational damage.”
“The men and women of our New York National Guard appreciate the consumer protection support provided by New York State, alongside the thousands of other service members stationed across our great state,” said the Major General Ray Shields, the Adjutant General of New York. . “Highlighting this advice and raising awareness throughout the Army helps strengthen the preparedness of individuals and families to deal with business scams designed to target our men and women in uniform. We thank the New York State for paying attention to this important issue.”
The NYS DCP recommends the following scam precautions for active duty military members to help identify when something is wrong to ensure they are prepared to protect their personal information, accounts, identity and money against fraudulent practices.
Scam prevention tips for active service members:
TIP #1: PREVENT IDENTITY THEFT BY USING AN “ACTIVE DUTY ALERT”
The FTC reports that active duty military members file identity theft reports at much higher rates than non-military consumers. If you are called up for active duty, place an “active duty alert” on your credit report to minimize your risk of identity theft. Benefits include:
√ Businesses must verify their identity before issuing new credit
√ Lasts one year, but is renewable
√ Remove names from marketing lists for unsolicited credit and insurance offers for two years
To add an “active service alert” to your credit report, contact one of the three major credit reporting agencies. Once you have placed an “active duty alert” on your credit file with one of the bureaus, that bureau will send a request to the other two bureaus to do the same, so you don’t have to contact all three. Visit https://www.identitytheft.gov/#/CreditBureauContacts.
TIP #2: PROTECT YOUR PURCHASES AND INVESTMENTS
No matter where you are shopping, you should do your research first. It is important to search online for credible reviews from trusted sources and compare reviews from various websites.
Know what to look for when buying or selling a vehicle. A vehicle is one of the most expensive purchases you will make. If you’re buying or selling a vehicle, here are some red flags to look for:
√ Beware of so-called “military friendly” sellers:
• Scammers often do this to let your guard down. Beware of anyone offering an “unbelievable deal”, sometimes claiming to be the family of a recently deployed or fallen military member. In both situations, the scammer uses the service member’s affinity to discourage you from looking too closely at the deal or negotiating in good faith.
√ Beware of Fake Websites or Fake Lists:
• These bogus websites often post advertisements that offer bogus discounts for military personnel and upfront fees that require a bank transfer.
•Scammers often list vehicles for sale on online marketplaces like eBay, Facebook and Craigslist. The crooks collect a deposit or the advertised price of the vehicle and then disappear.
√ If you buy:
• Research the vehicle and its cost. Some dealerships try to overcharge service members, offer unfavorable terms, or add expensive optional products, such as paint protection, service contracts, or warranty asset protection (APG) insurance.
•Do not act on impulse or under pressure. Sellers will often want you to buy the car immediately, but take the time to research the price and thoroughly check out the car, including getting a used vehicle history report.
√ If you’re selling or trading in a vehicle, use a resource like Kelley Blue Book, Edmunds, or National Automobile Dealers Association guides to determine the value of your current car.
√ If financing, do thorough research to understand your options. Beware of “instant approval” (“no credit check“, “all ranks approved”) military loans which may have high interest rates and hidden fees.
Learn how to identify fake rental properties:
Scammers will often steal a photo from the internet to create a fake rental listing in an attempt to steal your deposits or the private information on your rental application. Beware of listings that advertise unusually low rent or are much nicer than other properties at this price. Be sure to pay application fees or deposits by check or credit card. If you have to pay a fee by bank transfer or money transfer app to view the property, it’s usually a fake.
TIP #3: KNOW WHO YOU ARE TREATMENT TO
√ Imposter scammers will often pose as someone they are not to trick you into giving them your personal information or money. They may impersonate a friend on social media, a romantic interest on a dating app, or another service member to gain your trust. If someone contacts you on social media, email, phone, text or dating apps and asks for money or financial information, ignore them and report the fraud. Never provide personal or financial information to anyone unless you have contacted them. These are often attempts to steal your identity and access your money.
√ If a debt collector contacts you and you do not recognize the business or the debt, ask for information first to ensure that the debt collector and the debt are both legitimate. Unscrupulous debt collectors will often insist that you have a debt, even if you don’t.
√ Beware if you are asked to pay in unusual ways, such as a money transfer app or using a reloadable gift card. These methods are nowhere to be found and it is almost impossible to get your money back.
√ Beware of anyone who communicates exclusively via social media, messaging apps or email. Be especially wary of those who refuse to give you other methods of contacting them.
The New York State Division of Consumer Protection serves to educate, assist and empower consumers in the state. If you’ve been the victim of identity theft, a scam, or have questions about your contact, contact the division’s Consumer Helpline at 1-800-697-1220 from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. weekdays, excluding public holidays. You can also file a consumer complaint at any time at https://dos.ny.gov/consumer-protection.