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Report shows scammers target veterans far more frequently than civilians; Northeast Ohio veteran suggests solution

Published: Nov. 11, 2021 at 2:14 PM EST
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CLEVELAND, Ohio (WOIO) - As many celebrate our nation’s heroes this week, there are others targeting them, according to a new report from one of our Cuyahoga County Scam Squad partners.

Active-duty service members and veterans are significantly more likely to lose money to a scam than civilians. Here's a look at our latest research.

Posted by AARP on Tuesday, November 9, 2021

19 Investigates took the information in the report to experts in search of a solution.

In the process, we uncovered where the government may be falling short in protecting vulnerable veterans.

If you think you get a lot of robocalls, you’d probably feel really bad for the people experts say are getting even more of them.

According to the new report released by AARP, veterans get significantly more fraudulent robocalls than civilians.

The report says:

“Military/veterans report getting more scam attempts than civilians overall and in particular, are more likely to receive scam solicitations or offers related to technology support or repair (67% and 58%, respectively), travel or vacation package deals (58% and 51%, respectively), lottery or prize winnings (54% and 46%), special status discounts (48% and 31%), phishing for account information (48% and 39%) to name some.”

Veterans also tend to lose more money to the scammers making them.

Retired Staff Sergeant Bryan Bowman runs a nonprofit organization called the SAM Center that aims to support veterans in Northeast Ohio.

“Our 2021 goal has been to bring veterans back into the community,” he said.

He wants to bring them back into a community that’s members have been isolated by the global pandemic, creating even more space for scammers to strike.

Community Food Pantry at the SAM Center tonight!! We are here until 6:30. Stop out if you need a little assistance.

Posted by Serving Area Military, Veterans, and Widows - SAM Center on Wednesday, November 10, 2021

“The scammers are the ones reaching out,” he said. “I mean they are the ones making all those phone calls to the veterans and that’s the difficult part.”

Bowen says he’s witnessed scammers getting veterans to pay for services the government offers for free.

“That is the lowest of low,” he said.

According to the AARP report, “significantly more military/veteran adults than civilians lost money to at least one of the fraudulent solicitations or offers ever or recently received (35% and 25%, respectively). The grandparent impostor scam, technology support scam, IRS impostor scam, offers to fix a low credit rating or lower a credit card interest rate, and phishing are ones in which military/veteran adults lost money more than civilians.”

One in three veterans lost money to fraudulent offers for things like increasing benefits, lowering a home mortgage rate, updating their military record or obtaining prescription drug assistance.

The Better Business Bureau’s Scam Tracker shows one local veteran lost $550 earlier this year while trying to get a better price on his medical marijuana.

“I would say its a lack of knowledge about the help that is available” Bowman said.

Bowman says the government does a poor job advertising assistance. He says there is room for improvement as far as ways to make veterans less vulnerable when a scammer calls them up.

“Definitely,” Bowman said. “I think the government can do better and the community can do better.”

He says the government should make an effort to mail out information about free services to veterans.

And, he’d like to see the community engage more with veterans, talk with them face-to-face; anything to make sure they know where to turn.

On that note, though, he says people who want to become veterans advocates should be sure to protect their efforts too.

“This is a time when so many want to support veterans but they should support veterans smartly,” Bowman said.

Two people made reports locally on the Scam Tracker, saying they got calls asking for donations to a fake veterans’ charity.

So, do your research, Bowman says, on which organizations give your money and time directly to the people who need it most.

If you are a veteran in need of assistance, Bowman says the best place to start is your county’s veterans service commission.

In Cuyahoga County, that commission is located in downtown Cleveland and the contact number is 216-698-2600.

You can report a scam to our partners at the Cuyahoga County Scam Squad online, or by calling 216-443-7226.

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