NASHVILLE – Ahead of Veterans Day (observed Saturday, Nov. 11, 2017), the Tennessee Department of Commerce & Insurance (TDCI) and the Tennessee Attorney General’s Consumer Protection Division Office urge Tennessee’s veterans and their families to beware of financial scams that often make them the target of unscrupulous scammers.
“All too often military families are the focus of con artists who target them because of their steady, guaranteed incomes and their prolonged time away from home for deployments,” said TDCI Commissioner Julie Mix McPeak. “We urge Tennesseans to be familiar with the red flags that can help identify and prevent scams created to rob veterans of a bright future.”
Attorney General Herbert H. Slatery III said: “Our consumer division works hard to protect military families, and helping veterans recognize and avoid scams is one way we can do that. Additionally, we will continue to pursue and hold accountable any business or person who acts unfairly or deceptively toward veterans or active military.”
TDCI’ s Securities and Consumer Affairs divisions along with the Attorney General’s Office remind veterans to keep the following in mind:
- Be wary of advertisers offering “special military prices” or “special military financing.” Some unscrupulous businesses will advertise special deals for service members and veterans, but will try to extract higher prices or interest rates than those paid by regular customers. Do your homework and research the price and cost of interest you should pay before doing business with someone who claims to provide these types of special deals.
- Avoid identity theft. Scammers are always looking for ways to steal your identity. Guard your confidential personal information. Do not give out your Social Security number, military information, bank account information or credit card numbers unless you are certain you are dealing with a reputable business. Never give this information out in response to an unsolicited telephone call or email request. Check your credit report regularly to make sure no suspicious activity has been reported under your name. Everyone is entitled to one free credit report every twelve months from each of the three major credit bureaus. Visit http://www.annualreditreport.com to get your free credit reports.
- Be wary of free trial memberships or free trials that aren’t free. Scammers often try to grab your attention with eye-catching free trial offers, but then require that you pay a nominal fee so they can get your debit or credit card number. Some companies won’t charge you anything at first, but request bank information upfront in order to begin billing you after the free trial period ends, hoping you won’t notice the continuing charges right away. While some of these offers may be legitimate, make sure you know exactly who you are dealing with and how to cancel the service before providing your financial information. Some unscrupulous businesses make it very difficult to cancel a free trial offer unless you follow their cancellation instructions to the letter.
- Beware predatory lending schemes. Predatory lenders target military personnel because they typically are young, are inexperienced with finances, and do not have an emergency fund saved. Additionally, service members are paid regularly and have job security. Predatory lenders intentionally place themselves in close proximity to military bases and use attractive marketing techniques to entice military personnel.
- Be wary of up-front fees. Scammers often say that they can help you access your benefits or get a good interest rate on a loan if you provide them an upfront fee. If you encounter this, remember that the military offers legal assistance, interest-free emergency loans and financial planning tools. Ask your military installation offices for details.
- Always find out what the total price is. Scammers hide the true cost of a product through numerous installment payments. They can offer misleading information about how much something really costs once all the payments and fees are added up. If the total price is too high, take your business elsewhere.
- Don’t trust promises about the future. Some scammers will promise changes to the terms of the loan that will occur in the future. Before handing over any money, make sure that everyone agrees to the final terms of a deal.
- Find out with whom you are dealing. Some scam artists will portray themselves as something they are not in order to get your business. They‘ll say something like, “I’m a
veteran of the armed forces,” to try to gain your trust. If you are worried about validity of the
salesperson, ask your installation community service office about the company or individual. You can also contact the Better Business Bureau.
- Be wary of house calls and telemarketers. If an individual comes to your door or calls your house promising assistance with accessing your Department of Veterans Affairs benefits, you should be wary of the validity of their service. The VA doesn’t generally make house calls, and it doesn’t participate in telemarketing. These scammers are not at your door to provide a public service or reward you for your military service. They want your personal information and access to your financial accounts. Information and access to all your VA benefits are available online through the Department of Veterans Affairs. All military personnel and veterans can register for access to a variety of information to help you understand your business.
If you suspect that you might be a victim of securities or insurance fraud, or if you would like to file a complaint or speak with an investigator, please contact the Tennessee Securities Division – Financial Services Investigations Unit at (615) 741-5900. To file a complaint online, visit https://tn.gov/commerce/article/securities-file-a-complaint. If you would like to file a complaint with the Division of Consumer Affairs, please go to: http://www.tn.gov/commerce.