By Josh Stein
As we celebrated Independence Day this month, we also remember the sacrifices and service of members of our military who protect us and safeguard our democratic values.
July is Military Consumer Month, and I want to highlight some of the ways my office is dedicated to protecting servicemembers from harmful scams. Because servicemembers are often stationed away from home in new communities, they and their loved ones can be vulnerable targets for scammers.
Here are some ways to avoid common scams that target military families and veterans.
Servicemembers and their families face a very different set of financial experiences as a result of their service. They often have to make large purchases away from local retailers they know and trust. When servicemembers are deployed, military spouses may have to make significant financial decisions alone. As a result, servicemembers and their loved ones looking to sign a loan or get a credit card are often targeted by lenders with high-interest rates or illegal fees. Remember that in North Carolina, it is illegal for loan brokers to charge advance fees for a loan or credit card, and you should never pay up front for a broker’s help. Also, do your research so you’re not paying for a financial service, like retirement planning or investment advice, that you could be getting for free or at a reduced cost through existing military resources.
Servicemembers are also often targeted with vehicle scams – don’t get taken for a ride when you purchase a vehicle. In North Carolina, we see flood-damaged cars go on sale after natural weather disasters like last year’s hurricanes. The damage to these cars is not disclosed and the cars are marketed as being in good condition. Research a car’s history carefully and make sure a mechanic you trust looks at it before you buy it. Always take a step back and evaluate whether or not the deal is fair. Don’t let yourself be rushed into making such a significant purchase.
Watch out for people who try to exploit military connections through affinity fraud scams. Scammers might pretend to be members of the same service group or have loved ones in the military to build a bond with you and appear trustworthy. Always be careful about sharing personal or financial details with anyone, and don’t let salespeople use your military service to pressure you into purchasing a product or making an investment.
Servicemembers’ families are often the victims of imposter scams. Scammers pretend to be a servicemember in trouble and contact a family member to emotionally manipulate them into giving away their money. If you get a call like this, hang up the phone and call someone you trust to verify the claim rather than acting right away. Stay calm and don’t act out of fear to protect your hard-earned money from an imposter.
Military servicemembers protect us every day. I’m grateful for their service and committed to doing everything in my power to protect them and their loved ones from scams and frauds. If you or someone you know has been the victim of a scam because of a military connection, or if you have any questions about a possible scam, please call my office at 1-877-5-NO-SCAM or file a complaint online at ncdoj.gov/complaint. You can also review the Military Consumer Guide my office released last year, which helps servicemembers navigate common financial situations and potential scams.
Thank you to all of our servicemembers and their families for your service.
Josh Stein serves as North Carolina attorney general.