In observance of National Military Consumer Protection Month, Attorney General Tim Fox offers tips to help protect active and retired military personnel and their families from consumer fraud.
“Unfortunately, service members can still become the victims of identity theft, scams, bad lending practices, and other criminal behaviors during the time they are deployed, when they are back on U.S. soil, and after they have retired from military service,“ Attorney General Tim Fox said. “Fortunately, there are a variety of strategies to help our servicemen and women avoid getting ripped off during these challenging times,” Fox added.
Fox offered these tips:
• Set up an “Active Duty Alert” if you’re deployed and don’t expect to open a new line of credit, such as a car loan, mortgage, or a new credit card. The Active Duty Alert requires creditors to take additional steps to verify your identity before allowing new credit in your name. Active Duty Alerts last for one year, but can be renewed. To set one up, call the fraud department of any of the three credit reporting agencies, or fill out an Active Duty Alert form online. The credit reporting agency you initially alert is then responsible for contacting the other two credit reporting companies.
• Be wary of military-targeted scams such as online postings offering too-good-to-be-true housing rental prices for military personnel, con artists impersonating government contractor recruiters, or scammers pretending to be representatives from the Department of Veterans Affairs.
○ Never wire money for a housing security deposit and consider utilizing the Department of Defense sponsored Automated Housing Referral Network to find a home.
○ Don’t share any personal account or identity information someone who contacted you first. Instead, hang up and call the VA directly and ask them if the VA has been trying to contact you. Do this even if the email address or caller ID says Veterans Affairs. Scammers can manipulate e-mail addresses and caller I.D. to look legitimate.
○ Never hand over identification documents until you’ve met with a potential employer at their company location during regular work hours.
• Access your benefits through the VA. Some scammers try to charge veterans for services they can get for free elsewhere, like copies of their military record, or applying to receive benefits. However, applying for benefits is always free through the Veterans Benefits Administration.
○ Don’t share any personal information with anyone who contacts you about accessing your veteran’s benefits. Instead, call the Veterans Benefits Administration directly so you know you’re working with a legitimate representative.
• Don’t give out personal details over the phone, email, text or even in person to sources unknown to you. TRICARE, the government’s health program for service members and retirees, warns that scammers are offering “free coronavirus test kits” in exchange for personal information, Social Security numbers, and bank or credit card information. Additionally, scammers are taking advantage of military stop movement orders to try and get service members to reveal personal information, using tactics such as threatening security clearance revocation.
To learn more, visit the Montana Department of Justice’s Office of Consumer Protection military consumer protection web page.