Better Business Bureau Warns of Top Military Scams

May 29, 2011 Updated May 27, 2011 at 6:01 PM EDT

By WKBW News

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Better Business Bureau Warns of Top Military Scams

May 29, 2011 Updated May 27, 2011 at 6:01 PM EDT

Buffalo, N.Y. (WKBW release) -- Memorial Day can mark the beginning of summer for some and a kickoff to a new buying season for many businesses, but for most of us our thoughts turn to our servicemen and women and their families.

Our military protect us at home and abroad, but because they are often young and inexperienced consumers with a steady paycheck, scammers target them with bad loan offers, to-good-to-be-true deals and other shady sales practices. To protect military against con artists and scams, BBB offers expedited complaint services and free resources.

“Military service members and their families have a unique lifestyle and find themselves in different circumstances than the rest of us,” said David Polino, Better Business Bureau President. “Because they’re on the move and may lack financial know-how, they need services tailored to support their specific needs. We hope to protect them from unscrupulous traps.”

Since 2004, BBB Military Line has provided assistance to military communities with a variety of consumer related issues aimed to reduce the number of military personnel falling victim to predatory practices. BBB Military Line uses both web-based resources and community outreach to provide free resources, such as financial literacy information, MoneyU.com an online, game-based personal finance course designed specifically for young adults, educational materials, briefings, BBB complaint services and scam alerts for all branches of the military.

This Memorial Day, BBB warns of top scams that target service members:

High priced military loans - Advertisements for loans that promise a guarantee, instant approval or no credit check will often come with hidden fees and extremely high interest rates. Remember that legitimate lenders will never guarantee a loan before you apply and any loan that requires an upfront fee is a scam.

Fake rental properties - Stolen photos of legitimate rental properties are used in advertisements that promise military discounts and other incentives. Service members will have to pay a fee via wire transfer for security payments or a key to the property – in the end they will receive nothing.

Phony jury duty summons - A caller clams to work for the local court system and states that the service member did not show up for jury duty and now has a warrant out for their 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 – Websites posting classified ads will offer false discounts for military personnel or claim to be from soldiers who need to sell their vehicle fast since they have been deployed. Upfront fees will be required via wire transfer, or the vehicle will have problems after purchase.

Expensive life insurance policies – Members of the military are often the targets of high pressured sales pitches that offer un-necessary, expensive life insurance policies. Solicitors will make false statements regarding the benefits that these policies offer.

Veteran’s benefits buyout plans - This buyout plan will offer a cash payment in exchange for a disabled veteran’s future benefits or pension payments. The cash amount is only about 30-40% of what the veteran is entitled to. These buyout plans can be structured in several different ways, so research thoroughly before signing anything over.

BBB recommends the following tips to avoid these and other scams:

Do your research. Get as much information as you can about a business or charity before you pay. You can read BBB Business Reviews at bbb.org.

Don’t wire transfer money to anyone you don’t know. Money sent via wire transfer is practically impossible to track. Pay by credit card whenever possible, since you can dispute charges easily.

Protect your computer. Don’t click on links within unsolicited emails. Don’t enter personal information on unfamiliar websites. Make sure that you have updated anti-virus software installed and use a firewall at all times.

Find Free Resources. Military families who need assistance don’t need to pay for help. In addition to BBB Military free resources, service men and women can turn to the FTC , National Association of Insurance Commissioners, and www.saveandinvest.org, a free service of the NASD Investor Education Foundation.

For scam alerts, tips and other information you can trust, visit bbb.org.