LITTLE ROCK – This July, Arkansas Attorney General Leslie Rutledge and the Federal Trade Commission are highlighting consumer protection issues that impact many American consumers, specifically those members of the United States Armed Forces. While no one is immune from falling prey to scams, there are certain scams that are directed to those who serve the nation in uniform.
“Scam artists prey on the fact that United States service members are the most sacrificial people and exploit their generosity to gain a profit,” said Attorney General Rutledge. “It is important that current and former members of our armed forces, as well as their families, are able to identify these types of scams so that they do not fall victim to them.”
Attorney General Rutledge released the following tips and common scams military service members and veterans should be cautious of moving forward:
- Be aware of any scam artists charging money for free records. Scammers will attempt to convince veterans to pay for documents that are already free. If you want copies of VA or military records, you can contact the Department of Veterans Affairs, the National Achieves, or the appropriate service branch.
- Be skeptical of any exclusive deal only for veterans. In some cases, there are legitimate deals for veterans, but in many cases, the items are not discounted at all, but are non-existent products and services. It is best to check the products before you buy and never send money to anyone you do not know.
- Be guarded when anyone demands an up-front payment. It is a common scam for con artists to demand payment or large sums of money up front and some will even go as far as claiming to be military personnel overseas. No legitimate business will ever demand for complete payment up front and this is a red flag.
- Be suspicious of any individual or entity requiring monetary compensation to file disability claims for Veterans. The claim process is free and can be submitted by coordinating with a certified County Veteran Service Officer (CVSO) or any Veteran Administration claims representative. The Arkansas Department of Veterans Affairs can help you find your certified CVSO here.
- Be leery of email messages claiming to be from a legitimate organization that does not have its own domain name. An official email from a legitimate company or organization should not come from an email address ending in “@gmail.com” or “@yahoo.com” and this should be a red flag.
- Be careful with any correspondence containing poor spelling and grammar. Legitimate companies and organizations typically proofread documents and emails thoroughly before sending them. Errors can be a red flag for fraud.
- Be cautious with suspicious links and high-pressure requests. Scammers will say and do anything to steal personal information. By sending a link through email or text message which is clicked on by the consumer, scammers can steal any personal information that is saved on the device. Never click on any link sent from an unknown source.
- Be suspicious of unsolicited investment advice. Some scammers have disguised themselves as veterans’ advocates and claim victims are entitled to additional veterans’ benefits. If approached by someone in this manner, confirm the alleged state regulatory office, hang up, and independently call the office directly.
In 2019, Attorney General Rutledge successfully sued Andrew Gamber; Voyager Financial Group, LLC; BAIC, Inc.; and SoBell Corp. for the brokering of contracts that offer high-interest credit to veterans in exchange for investors illegally acquiring rights to receive future pension payments. The following year, Rutledge sued Candy Kern-Fuller and Howard Sutter, lawyers at UpState Law Group in South Carolina for substantially assisting brokers with the illegal sale of veterans’ future pension payments. Kern-Fuller and Sutter are accused of developing the contract approval, payment collection and enforcement processes. The broker companies falsely told veterans that they were selling their future payments for a reduced lump-sum. In reality, the veterans’ pension assignment contracts were high interest loans that were void from the start. These deceptive and unfair acts and practices violate state and federal laws protecting veterans.
Arkansas military service members, veterans and families can file consumer complaints with the Attorney General’s office at ArkansasAG.gov.