After years of vigilant service, Veterans must remain vigilant online

Veterans are twice as likely as non-Veterans to be targets of online scams


shadow

The internet is a powerful tool for Veterans. It allows them to keep up with friends, access their hard-earned benefits and shop for the things they need. Unfortunately, former service members are more likely than civilians to be targeted by online scammers while doing these things. Veterans are twice as likely to lose money to fraud because of identity theft, phishing, impostor scams, and investment, loan, or donation deceptions.

Many of these scammers target Veterans to alter or access their government-provided aid, swindling them out of the money or benefits they have earned. This is a widespread issue. Nearly 80% of Veterans say they have been targeted by scams due to their service, according to an AARP survey. These scams are diverse and range from phishing attempts to solicitations for fraudulent Veteran-focused charities.

“Help the Vets” is one example of a fraudulent charity targeting Veterans. It claimed to fund medical care and mental health services for Veterans. An investigation found that “Help the Vets” spent 95% of donations on administrative costs and compensation for its founder. Just 5% of proceeds were actually used to benefit Veterans.

Scammers and identity thieves also target financially stressed Veterans with promising investment opportunities. Recently, a man defrauded about 2,600 people—many of whom are pension-holding Veterans—in a Ponzi scheme. The investor told these pension holders to make monthly payments and disguised them as cash flows.

Identity thieves have developed both low-tech and high-tech ways to steal Veterans’ data, like shoulder surfing and skimming. Shoulder surfing requires that someone physically look over your shoulder to steal your password, PIN, or credit card number. Skimming utilizes a device that fits onto regular credit card machines, allowing scammers to steal your credit card information.

How to protect your information

Veterans can take simple actions to better protect their information:

  • Use unique passwords for your online accounts. Re-using passwords increases the risk of cyber theft.
  • Use multi-factor authentication (MFA). This combines more than one authenticator type based on information users know and information users receive. It also adds another level of security when Veterans log in to access and manage VA services and benefits.

VA works hard to prevent Veteran identity theft. VA delivers cybersecurity awareness training for all VA employees. It ended the use of Social Security numbers in its business processes. Lastly, VA gives free credit monitoring to Veterans and beneficiaries whose data was compromised by a VA breach. Veterans or beneficiaries of identity theft not caused by a VA breach can contact the toll-free Identity Theft Help Line at 1-855-578-5492 from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. ET, Monday through Friday.

Veterans can also find additional information on protecting their identity and what VA is doing to help by visiting the More Than a Number website.


VA’s Office of Information and Technology contributed this report. 

Author

VAntagePoint Contributor

— VAntage Point Contributors provide insight and perspective on a wide range of Veterans issues. If you’d like to contribute a story to VAntage Point, learn how you can submit a guest blog at http://www.blogs.va.gov/VAntage/how-to-submit-a-guest-post/

Comments

  1. Patrick Lim    

    “VA works hard to prevent Veteran identity theft. … It ended the use of Social Security numbers in its business processes.”

    Really? Then why do I still regularly receive VA mailings with my SSN printed at the very top? Calling it my “file number” instead of SSN doesn’t actually help anything since they’re the same. All inquiries I’ve made about getting my file number changed to something else have met with the canned response “we can’t do that.”

  2. John Howell    

    There are over 100 different online websites that collect our personal information.
    Congress is trying to stop this intrusion of our private information by passing new legislation.
    We as veterans must demand that we be protected by contacting your local House Of Representatives.
    Search the web your self and compile al list of what websites that have your personal information.
    When you type in your name to most any search engine– those links that are found have some
    match to your search name. Then contact them through an email or letter to opt out of their information collection service as you do not authorize them to collect or sell your personal information.
    Some websites will not acknowledge they have your info unless you buy a subscription.
    Contact these via phone as well as email or mail to an opt out of their website collection service.
    Please retain copies of your correspondence. Don’t forget these websites sell your information
    to other businesses and profit off your personal information.

  3. Donna Collette    

    Why has your organization NOT included “Wounded Warriors” as part of the schemes. I have a friend who did claims for many years. He told me that when he could not get a veteran service connected for alleged injuries, he would call the Wounded Warriors. However the Wounded Warriors might give something but it is minimal and generally only one time. Further there are three key aspects:
    1. The Wounded Warriors Project was investigated and found to put the majority of donations toward “administrative costs.” These administrative costs were found to go into the pockets of the founders and a few others.
    2. The commercials were horrendous fakes. When showing a man holding onto his very young daughter to walk from room to room, and on the staircase the “wife” was putting his feet, one foot at a time so he could get to the next step but the so-called veteran used his leg strength to unbend his knee and to straighten his leg on that step! If he could do that, putting his foot on a step requires much less effort. I know because I do have real ambulatory challenges. All the others were just as bad.
    3. To get a service connection for PTSD today, especially with male veterans, is like cutting through soft butter with a hot knife.

    1. Ilene Holmes    

      I agree with you that Wounded Warriors should be treated as a scam. Their ads claim to provide services that are actually provided by the VA, and the money that they collect enriched them, but does almost nothing for vets. It angers me that they use veterans to enrich themselves.

  4. Guy Edward Bender    

    I would like to know if it’s possible to tecieve a lump some of monies from my dissability. Example: 500.00 a month deducted from my monthly dissability for a 5 year period. Something like this would truly be a fantastic opportunity for Veterans like myself to get on a financially stable platform.

  5. Sandee Miller    

    How do outside organizations get my phone number, know I’m a veteran, and that I have a VA home loan? They try to say their call is about letting me know about all my benefits. As soon as I tell him I have a very low percentage fixed rate loan, the conversation is over. They name themselves to seem like they could be a legitimate VA entity.

  6. Neil DeWitt    

    How are these SCAM people getting our info to show we’re veterans in the first place? Are we still part of your hacked people? When you going to get this cleared up? Tell me again about how secure your sites are!

  7. James A McDaniel    

    I have become aware of being scammed, early December 2019 I was scammed out of five hundred dollars by a scammer that hacked a friend’s account and I thought I was communicating with my friend and it wasn’t.
    Be ware they are getting smarter.

  8. John Maki    

    How about changing the way DVA demands medical records from active duty at BDD sites nationwide. Rather then force Active duty through a hoop of encrypting, transferring and decrypting and yet a 2nd now unsecure transfer to the VSR or VS Organization [delegated representative], and then on the the DVA’s VSR for initial claim processing. Seems like nobody cares?

    Why “N”ot allow Active duty claimants the same privliage afforded to actual Veterans?

    Active duty spend thousands of man hours combined doing what should be the job of the .gov/.mil Intranet domains.

    Yes, the administrative stuff like finding BDD, sites, getting records, requesting time off work and travel [dont forget all the little things not working right in your office [copier, email, phone, internet, log in, computers], Active duty are not Super Heros, they have lives and jobs and families and they experience the same daily grind which delays them as much as anyone]. Oh, and don’t forget, they don’t control their lives. Most service members work at a place that can send you to jail if you don’t go to work.

    You may see, on the application’s last pages there are preformatted realeases
    – Active duty could/ should use this method of producing claims evidence “See attached medical records privacy release for medical professional”.

    In concept, this medical record information release authorization provided to the DVA could allow for digital read only DoD medical record requests from branch medical record authorities and save tax payers millions in labor.

    The DoD and the DVA owe it to all service members to act in a unobstructive manner by law to avoid plaintiff disenfranchisement. This disability claims hoop at a major life intersection compounds the more discussed stressors.
    The DVA already makes such officia records requests for Veterans, why not Active duty? SF

Comments are closed.