Who is the biggest target of online scams? Believe it or not, it may be military veterans according to the results of one study. Most of the people reading this have a veteran in their lives even if they don’t know it. Veterans become prime targets for scammers and con artists who use the Internet to do their business.
How Scammers Target Veterans
There are many dangers online:
How are veterans targeted? By e-mail addresses, and sometimes in illegal databases hackers obtained from corporate websites, sold in dark web transactions. Some scams choose victims by address; military communities are easy to find around bases all over the world.
A report published by AARP says nearly 80% of veterans claim they have been targeted by a scammer specifically due to their military service. That is an incredibly high number and older veterans are especially at risk. Some con artists specifically prey on veterans in financial trouble.
One scam (described by the Department of Veterans Affairs as a Ponzi scheme) cheated more than 2500 victims including many retired veterans.
How To Protect Yourself, Your Friends, And Loved One Against Online Scams
If you want to stay financially healthy and avoid identity fraud and online scams, the first and most important rule to follow? Never click on a link sent to you by a third party you did not initiate contact with. It does not matter whether the link comes to you by email, Twitter, Facebook, or any other delivery system.
If you did not initiate contact with the third party promising you services, goods, or assistance, do not click the links.
Double Check The Web Address
Carefully investigate any third party that contacts you out of the blue. Beware of official-sounding addresses claiming to be government agencies that do not have .mil, or .gov addresses. A federal government website typically uses a .gov web address. A military base or official military website will have a .mil address.
Do not assume your accounts are secure over the long term. Change your passwords frequently to avoid identity theft, fraud, and account compromises. Hackers use automated systems to repeatedly guess password combinations in massive volumes. Your password will eventually be cracked by such software.
The only protection against it is to change passwords frequently. In the 21st century, no one can assume they are immune from these attacks.
Get Help From The VA
Did you know that the Department of Veterans Affairs offers free credit monitoring services to qualifying veterans and beneficiaries of veterans who have had problems with identify theft, compromised accounts, etc.?
There are two avenues of help–those with compromised accounts or other problems due to a VA security breach, and those who have suffered identity theft caused by a different problem.
Call the toll-free Identity Theft Help Line at 1-855-578-5492 to learn more on the options open to you as a veteran or the beneficiary of a veteran.
Joe Wallace specializes in personal finance, military affairs, and consumer protection topics. Since 1995, his work has appeared on Air Force Television News, The Pentagon Channel, ABC and a variety of print and online publications. He is a 13-year Air Force veteran and collects unusual vinyl records, which gives him an excuse to write the vinyl blog Turntabling.net.