As Memorial Day Weekend kicks off, beware of scams towards military community
MYRTLE BEACH, S.C. (WMBF) - As the Grand Strand enters into a weekend that honors those who gave the ultimate sacrifice, scammers are lying in wait looking to take advantage of those who’ve also served.
The Better Business Bureau says this is a time when consumers, especially veterans and military members themselves, should be on high alert.
“The scam market for the military is huge,” said Renee Wikstrom, spokesperson for BBB of Coastal Carolina.
The BBB says this group of consumers is already frequently targeted by scammers, but especially so when the summer’s military and patriotic holidays roll around every year.
In 2020, scammers stole well over $460,000 from active duty military and retired veterans across the country, according to the BBB.
Retired veterans are oftentimes the ones who want to help those military members who come after them, making them a prime target for fake charities during this time of year to solicit “donations.”
“With Memorial Day especially being such a holiday that pulls at our heartstrings because it’s in honor of those who gave all - scammers are out to get everything,” said Wikstrom. “And they know we’re more vulnerable at that point because we are thinking about loved ones that are lost in battle.”
The BBB recommends that when donating to a charity, you use your credit card, not a debit card or check. That helps provide recourse if you find yourself donating to what ends up being an untrustworthy organization.
The BBB also provides a list of military-focused charities that have been vetted.
Besides charitable giving, active service members and their families can also be particularly targeted with flashy loans or car deals.
Wikstrom says scammers keep tabs on the demographic you fall into based on your activity online - so they can gear specific scams that appeal to you.
Real companies can try to take advantage of military spouses who are seeking out an emergency loan by giving out quick cash with astronomical interest.
Experts encourage you to check with your banking institution first before pursuing a loan to make sure it’s on the up and up.
Sometimes your bank may already offer a military program, or they can at least help send you in the right direction.
Wikstrom says if you do get scammed, report it and seek help.
“The more information you report to the BBB, the more we can help other veterans and other consumers,” she said. “Don’t be embarrassed because it happens every single minute of every single day.”
The BBB is able to pass along submitted reports to its military and federal partners, which can in turn lead to the possibility of actually shutting these fraudulent websites down.
“They may only get it shut down for a day or two. But that’s a day or two that it may have saved someone’s whole life savings,” she said.
The BBB offers specific resources geared towards service members, their families, and veterans to use in order to prevent getting scammed in the future.
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