Scammers Targeting Veterans Must Serve Extra Prison Time, Senators Demand
Senators Catherine Cortez Masto and Ted Budd want new criminal penalties for scammers who attack veterans. The senators said that The Veterans Protection from Fraud Act is needed to discourage scammers from attacking and preying on people who have already done a lot for the country. The act would add 10 years extra in prison for individuals who have been convicted of scamming a veteran. Many veterans groups, including Veterans of Foreign Wars, Paralyzed Veterans of America, and Disabled American Veterans, have supported the act.
"Nevada veterans have put their lives on the line for this country, and we must do everything we can to stop scams targeting them," Cortez Masto said in a statement, as per Yahoo!News. "My bipartisan bill strengthens penalties for fraud against veterans and makes it more difficult for criminals to target them."
In 2022, over 93,000 federal fraud complaints worth more than $164 million were associated with veteran benefits or veteran status . The senators expressed their concern for the veterans and said that they are being targeted following the congressional initiatives that boost the availability of benefits options for veterans.
Ross Byrant, who is the executive director of the Military and Veteran Services Center at the University of Nevada, noticed an increase in the number of veterans receiving solicitations from groups pretending to be charities. Byrant said that older veterans are especially susceptible to such scams as they may not be as tech-savvy to protect themselves from these frauds.
The Veterans Protection from Fraud Act
The bill was introduced on July 26, 2023 by Sens. Catherine Cortez Masto (D-Nevada) and Ted Budd (R-N.C.), per Diverse: Military. It would add up to 10 more years of prison time for those convicted of mail fraud and similar crimes against veterans and could also double their sentences.
Veterans and their families lost $267 million in 2021
According to Federal Trade Commission Data, the median loss for military scam victims was $600, which was almost 20 percent higher compared to the general public in 2021. Scammers attack veterans in various ways and almost 40% of the time they are successful in scamming the veterans. Often the goal of the scammers is to simply gain the benefits provided by the government to the veterans.
Here is how scammers are targeting veterans:
1. They are often told that in order to get the money they must first pay a nominal fee which helps the scammer gain access to their finances or simply ask for their personal information.
2. They sometimes exploit the veteran by offering them cash upfront in exchange for much higher pension payments.
3. Sometimes they even convince the veterans to buy "plans" from them that will "boost their pensions."
In other cases, scammers pose as veterans and representatives from organizations supporting veterans in order to buy their trust. Here are some examples.
1. Military charities ask for donations from veterans.
2. Phishers posing as VA officials ask for personal information such as their Social Security number to "update" the veteran's records.
3. Scammers pretending to be from Tricare, which is the health organization for military personnel, veterans and their families, contact veterans to offer them Covid-related benefits.
4. Fake ads offer rental properties claiming that they offer discounts for veterans and active-duty military, targets are then instructed to give them money for security deposit.
5. Some scammers offer special deals for veterans on cars, electronics and other products and then they ask for their payment via wire. Once paid, the seller disappears.
The red flags
1. VA will never ask for your personal information like a veteran's security number, financial data, number, and more.
2. No caller will offer to increase the retirement benefits or even give you access to unpopular government programs.
3. No charity will suddenly call you and coax you to give donations, especially from a charity that you are not associated with.
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