Memorial Day is a time to honor those who have lost their lives in active military service.
It's also become a time of year when scammers target military causes and military service men and women.
Better Business Bureau of Upstate New York is urging people to be vigilant when choosing military charitable causes to support, and for those who served to be on the lookout for deals that seem too good to be true.
"BBB works throughout the year to educate our service members and their families, but it's important that anyone looking to support military causes this time of year only do so after they verify an organization's credibility," said Warren Clark, president of Better Business Bureau of Upstate New York. "We encourage everyone to check BBB charity reviews and look for transparent practices. If you can't find a charity, you can ask us to generate an evaluation."
Scams can include those that target military members and their families directly or appear to be helping them through charities. People who wish to donate should take time to check out a charity, ask the person soliciting how the donation will be used, and never click on links to charities on unfamiliar websites or in text messages or emails. It's also important to check the charity's financial transparency and tax deductibility.
BBB warns of the following scams that are directed at service members:
Fake military charity websites. Military non-for-profits abound. Donors are encouraged to consider utilizing BBBs 20 Standards for Charity Accountability as a reference to evaluate organizations. All official military websites have ".mil" as a domain. Make sure to check for that when opening a site claiming to be from any branch of the U.S. Military.
High-priced military loans. Loans that promise a guaranteed instant approval or no credit check will often come with hidden fees and extremely high interest rates. Remember, legitimate lenders will never guarantee a loan before you apply, and loans that require upfront fees are likely a scam.
Veteran benefits buyout plans. This offers a cash payment in exchange for a disabled veteran's future benefits or pension payments. The cash amount is only about 30 to 40 percent of what the veteran is entitled to. Research any buyout thoroughly before signing anything over.
Phony jury duty summons. A caller claims to work for the local court system and states the service member did not show up for jury duty and now has a warrant out for his/her arrest. When the victim says they never got a summons, the caller will ask for a credit card number or Social Security number to clear up the matter.
Misleading car sales. Classified ad websites will sometimes offer fake discounts for military personnel, or will claim to be from soldiers who need to sell their vehicle fast since they have been deployed. Always double-check before sending any money.
Expensive life insurance policies. Members of the military are often the targets of high-pressured sales pitches that offer unnecessary, expensive life insurance policies. Solicitors may make false statements regarding the benefits these policies offer.
BBB recommends the following advice to avoid these and other scams:
Do your research. Get as much information as you can about a business or charity before making any financial decisions. You can read business and charity reviews at bbb.org.
Don't send money to anyone you don't know. Money sent via wire transfer is practically impossible to track. Pay by credit card whenever possible, since it is easier to dispute credit card charges.
Protect your computer. Don't click on links within unsolicited emails. Don't enter personal information on unfamiliar websites. Make sure you have updated anti-virus software installed and use a firewall at all times.
Put an active duty alert on your credit reports when deployed. Doing so will minimize the risk of identity theft, because creditors and businesses cannot issue or grant credit until verifying identity.
For scam alerts, tips and other "information you can trust," visit bbb.org.
For more than 100 years, Better Business Bureau has been helping people find businesses, brands and charities to trust. In 2014, people turned to BBB more than 165 million times for BBB business reviews on more than 4.7 million businesses, and charity reports on 11,000 charities, all available for free at bbb.org.
The Council of Better Business Bureaus is the umbrella organization for 112 local, independent BBBs across North America, as well as home to its national programs on dispute resolution, advertising review and industry self-regulation. BBB serving Upstate New York was founded in 1923 and serves 48 counties.
Since 2004, BBB Military Line has provided free resources to military communities in the areas of financial literacy and consumer protection through the efforts of local BBBs across the U.S. Visit bbb.org/military for more information.