Military Phone Scams: Phone Fraud and Identity Theft a Growing Issue for Military Personnel

Phone scammers usually try to target vulnerable groups of people, such as the elderly or immigrants, however another group that is being heavily targeted are military personnel. There are many stories of stolen identities from military personnel being used in romance scams. Con artists will steal profile photos and names from the social media of those serving, and then use those identities to convince their victims to send money overseas.

Another common military scam that active duty and veterans face are pension and benefits scams. A fraudster will call and offer to help with the necessary paperwork, but in reality they are stealing personal information.

Active duty military personnel and veterans are victimized by scammers just as much as, if not more than, civilians for fraud and identity theft. The Consumer Sentinel Network (CSN) compiles millions of complaints each year from the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) and other organizations committed to protecting consumer rights; among the complaints that they receive every year are those of military consumers.

The CSN reported 96,578 complaints from military consumers in 2015. The U.S. Army reported the majority of these complaints with 48 percent. They were followed by the U.S. Navy (21 percent), the U.S. Air Force (20 percent), the U.S. Marines (10 percent) and the U.S. Coast Guard (2 percent).

Who is being targeted?

Military retirees and veterans filed the highest amount of fraud and identity theft complaints, making up 65 percent of military complaints. The second highest group of targeted individuals were dependent spouses of service members, accounting for 13 percent of complaints. Active duty service members made up 7 percent of the complaints.

What are the most common types of scams?

The most common type of scam that military personnel are falling victim to is identity theft, which accounted for 30 percent of the received complaints. This was followed closely by impostor scams, which made up 29 percent of the complaints.

Identity theft is classified as the act of someone stealing your personal identification in order to commit fraud. It can be the result of personal information being stolen via a phone call, email, mail, or a hacked online or mobile account. As opposed to civilian consumers, who were most affected by debt collection fraud, military consumers suffered from identity theft and impostor scams the most.

Compromised government documents and benefits made up over 51 percent of complaints related to identity theft. This includes stolen tax information and wages, as well as government benefits. This was followed by credit card fraud, which accounted for almost 16 percent of identity theft complaints. The majority of these complaints were related to new accounts being opened with stolen information.

Impostor scams are one of the most common types of phone scam. In an impostor scam a fraudster will claim to be a family member in trouble, a computer technician, a government official, or a charity.

How to avoid fraud?

The best way to prevent fraud is to know your rights and report any suspected scams to the proper authorities. Never trust an unsolicited phone call in which the caller asks for your personal information. In cases such as these say you'll call back later and hang up. After hanging up, do research. Call the government agency or organization that claimed to be calling you directly via a number that appears on their official website and question them about the call you received.

If you think you've been targeted by a scammer be sure to report it to local authorities, your state's attorney general and the correct government organizations.