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Be aware of scams targeting military members

BUCKLEY AIR FORCE BASE, Colo. -- Retired and active duty military members are frequently targeted by scammers.  Listed below are several ways in which scammers will try and target you and how you can avoid falling into their trap.

Internet Scams Using Social Networks

Scammers will create fake social network accounts on websites like Facebook or Twitter using a real military member's profile photograph and name.  Then, scammers will search local social networks for retirees, dependents, or active-duty members.  After finding targets, they contact them using their fake account and establish a relationship.  Scammers will then fabricate an emergency and ask for money.  Usually, scammers will ask that the money be sent by wire transfer or another method that is difficult to trace.

To avoid this scam, do not accept a friend request from someone you do not know on social networks and be cautious of anyone who asks for money over a social network.  Avoid posting photographs or information on social media that identifies you as a military member.  Do not give out credit card or bank information over social networks.  If you or someone you know has provided bank or credit card information to a scammer, contact the bank or credit card company and file a report with their fraud department.

Charitable Giving

Some charities claim to help certain groups, but do not actually do so.  Common charity scams targeting military members are those that claim to help veterans, wounded warriors, or those with certain medical conditions.  Before giving to any charity, check the legitimacy of the organization on websites such as the Better Business Bureau and Charity Navigator.  Be sure to do your due diligence before engaging in any charitable giving.

Phone Solicitations

Some scammers will "cold-call" you and say they are from a legitimate, recognizable company and that you are eligible for a benefit or prize.  They will then ask for your personal information like credit card number, social security number, bank account, or medical insurance number.  You should be wary of unsolicited attempts by any entity asking for information, either by phone or in person, because companies will never call and ask for personally identifiable information or health information.

When in doubt, hang up and call a reputable number at the company and verify the claim.  It is strongly advised that you do not give any information to unsolicited callers.  If you or someone you know has given information to an unsolicited requestor, report it to the company and your base legal office.

Hidden Fees

Military personnel should always keep an eye out for hidden fees.  Typically, the fees will be included in contracts for sale with multiple payments.  After the initial bill or price is determined, the company may unilaterally increase that price without any notice to you.  Be sure to document your expected monthly payment to avoid this trap.  Also, carefully review all billing statements for hidden fees.  If you have questions about a bill, contact the company.

Stay alert and make sure you protect yourself from these scams.