Military families are easy targets for identity theft and scams. Our transient nature as well as our increasingly online lives make us susceptible to criminals who want to make a quick buck… off of us. Common scams include card cracking (where it seems like you can get some quick money for the exchange of personal information–like your PIN), and romantic relationships (where someone gets you to fall in love with them and asks for large sums of money).
Don’t send money
Scammers will often have a variety of reasons to ask you for money– transportation, bank fees, medical fees, paperwork processing fees. They will often ask you to send it through Western Union or ship it to a third party. They might claim that you bank will refund you a certain percentage once you send the full amount to them or that your bank account will close if you do not send the money. If anyone ever asks you for money, no matter what the reason, do not pass go. Do not send $200.
Know the warning signs
Often, con artists will not ask for huge sums of money at first. They’ll ask you for perhaps $50– something that seems reasonable. Once you agree to that, they’ll gradually ask for more and more money. Some people have lost tens of thousands of dollars.
Be wary of online relationships
Regardless if it’s a romantic or platonic relationship, be careful with the people you meet and friend online. If you’re not 100% sure they’re legitimate, do not cultivate a relationship.
Practice smart PERSEC and OPSEC
Don’t divulge information that could later be used against you (or put your loved ones in danger). If someone asks you a bunch of questions about your life and your affairs, be suspicious.
Keep your head on straight
Many scams begin with an online relationship that very quickly goes from 0 to a million. If you notice that your online relationship has gotten very serious very quickly, take a step back and slow things down. Likewise, if you’re talking about getting married or engaged and have never met, Skyped with, or been on the phone with the person, take a big step back. Finally, never put yourself in a compromising position online– it’s very easy for someone to take a screenshot or record you… and then hold that information ransom for cash.
Report or block possible scammers
In one of the latest scams directed towards military families, scammers were specifically targeting people on Instagram who used hashtags like #USAA and #armystrong. Your financial institution will NEVER contact you via social media to ask you for personal information or money. Ever. Never ever ever. If someone does, ignore them, report them, and block them. You can also contact local law enforcement to report the incident.
Contact your bank
If someone does contact you– whether it’s through your email, social media, or phone– contact your financial institution to verify the situation. And if you think that you may have given financial information to someone, contact your bank immediately as well.
Keep an eye on your info
Believe it or not, if you willingly participate in a scam, you can actually be held responsible… even if you didn’t know it was a scam. That means that your credit rating could be damaged… or worse, depending on how involved in the scam you were. It’s just a good practice, but keep an eye on your bank accounts and credit cards. Make sure that you’re being responsible when it comes to spending online and that all purchases are accounted for.
How do you protect yourself and your family from schemes and scams?
Disclaimer: I am not a financial adviser or law enforcement professional. This is not professional advice. If you think you have been scammed, contact law enforcement and your bank immediately.