New scams are always on the rise. Just as one generation of scams seems to be on the verge of extinction, unscrupulous people find new ways and previously unexplored techniques to trick others out of their hard-earned money. And military families are not immune to these scams. Unfortunately, they may be more easily targeted than non-military families.
Here are some of the top scams that military families need to watch out for and how to handle them:
Rental Property Scams
You’re due for a PCS (permanent change of station) in a few months and need to find a place to live. You start your online search for the perfect home for you and your family and find something that seems to be too good to be true. It’s the right size, in the right location, appears to be well maintained, and best of all, it’s in your price range.
When you contact the landlord, they try to push you into sending a deposit before you can either look at the property or ask someone you trust to look at it for you. They tell you that “it’s going fast” and that they “have other people looking at it” so you need to “act fast.”
What to do: All of these statements by the landlord, urging you to send money right away, should be red flags. It’s possible that this person isn’t even the landlord and the property they are renting doesn’t actually exist. They could have copied the listing from another site as a way to scam potential renters out of money. Look for properties on reputable sites and consider working with a real estate professional to make sure you don’t get scammed.
Scammers tend to prey on the families of deployed servicemembers. They contact both your immediate family and your extended family in the hopes of scamming people out of a significant amount of money.
When they contact your family members, they claim that they are calling on your behalf and that you are injured, have lost your wallet and ID, or you don’t have enough cash to get back home. They ask your family member to wire money to an account they provide so that it can be given to you and you can be taken care of. This is especially popular with elderly family members of deployed servicemembers because they are more easily deceived and want to help.
What to do: The military never requires servicemembers to get help from their family to get home, get help, or replace their ID. They have protocols in place to help with these needs and will never ask your family for assistance. Educate your family members about this scam and tell them to call the authorities if they receive a call like this.
Scammers “friend” and follow military members on social media, especially Facebook, to assume their identities. Then, they use your identity to try and scam other people out of money.
What to do: Protect your identity by monitoring your social media for photos you didn’t post and duplicate accounts with your photo. Use credit monitoring services like Lifelock or Experian to get real-time notifications of your identity breaches.
Military families are often more at risk of being scammed than non-military families. It’s important to be vigilant in your knowledge of scams and keep your family updated on the risks so they don’t fall prey to a scammer.