Are they your battle buddy – or just unbelievable?
If you serve – or have served – in the military, chances are you feel a pretty tight bond with your brothers- and sisters-in-arms. If you share a common experience with someone, it only makes sense that you trust them, want to associate with them, or even do business with them.
But here’s something to bear in mind: scammers count on your trust in fellow servicemembers – and use it against you. A con artist might have actual service experience or they might be lying about it. Either way, they’re highly skilled at exploiting a military connection to get in good with you. Once they have your trust, they use it to deflect any questions and to throw you off track while they cheat you. It’s known as affinity fraud – when someone uses their membership in a group to scam another member. It could be someone claiming you can trust them because of the shared experience of serving in the military.
Scammers try to use a supposed military bond to take your hard-earned cash. They may pursue servicemembers, families, or anyone with sympathy for the military community. The scams can take many forms, from promises for quick and easy credit and car title loans to sky-high returns on bogus investment deals. Or they might lure you with hopes for online romance, interest in charitable giving, or the appeal of getting super sweet housing at eye-catching prices. Here are a few tips to help you see clearly if a scammer tries blowing smoke at you.
- Walk, don’t run. Take your time. Any deal that pressures you to act immediately probably doesn’t end well for you. Slow down and think about it – rushing into a supposed “deal” will usually just buy you trouble.
- Hold the line on the hype. Is this deal promising you the moon and the stars? Are they claiming you’ll see risk-free results on an investment? Stop – there’s no such thing as “risk-free.” Don’t let a scammer’s skillful hype cloud your thinking.
- Listen for the name game. Do they throw around the words “veterans” or “military families” in their name or ads? That doesn’t necessarily mean that veterans or the families of active-duty personnel support the organization or will benefit from a donation.
- Get it in writing. Before you open your wallet, look at the terms of the deal in writing. Then take your time and review. Are the terms what you expected? If not, can you really trust that company?
- Check it out. Always do your homework. Talk to others. Look up the company online and search for consumer complaints. Consider whether this deal works for you. Can you afford to lose your money?