Did you know that military members, veterans, military spouses, survivors and their families are targeted disproportionately for online scams, or cybercrime?
From 2016-20, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) said the military and veteran community reported more than $420.5 million lost to online scams, a figure that was 44% higher than their civilian counterparts.
The numbers of military members and veteran falling prey to fraud is most likely much higher than that, though. While the agency estimated that nearly 1 in 4 Americans is a victim of cybercrime, it said only 700,000 cybercrime fraud incidents were reported to their Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3) in 2020.
To help fight that astounding amount of fraud, several veterans' service organizations, federal agencies, corporations, non-governmental organizations and foundations have joined forces to educate military members, veterans and their families on how to avoid being duped by these scammers.
"Cybercriminals, online fraudsters and international crime syndicates are attacking our nation's military and veteran community at alarming rates," said Kristin Judge, CEO of the Cybercrime Support Network (CSN), which created the partnership. "Besides the emotional and financial toll on individuals and families, cybercrime can have a devastating impact on our military readiness and national security."
Partners in the nationwide cybercrime prevention initiative includes veterans organizations, such as 22Kill, Army Emergency Relief, Disabled American Veterans (DAV), Gold Star Wives-Arlington Chapter, Got Your Back Network, Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America, Links to Freedom, National Association for Black Veterans, National Organization for Victim Assistance, Patriot Boot Camp, Racing for Heroes, Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors, Travis Manion Foundation and VetSec.
Tech companies like AT&T, Comcast, Google and Microsoft are also partners of the Cybercrime Support Network.
The group has created a website, FightCybercrime.org, that provides information on how to avoid common scams and what to do if you think you've been scammed. It also includes links to local and national support and reporting agencies, as well as commercial security tools that can help you avoid being scammed.
Some of the most common scams used to target military and veterans include:
- Sextortian scams -- Scams that claim to have explicit photos of someone and threaten to release those photos unless money is received.
- Romance imposter scams -- Fake profiles created on dating websites that are used to target service members for financial gain.
- Real-estate scams -- Fake rental homes that are posted online and demand cash security deposits for rental.
- Family or friend imposter scams -- An email that claims to be from a family member or friend who is in trouble and needs money.
- GI Bill scams -- Fraud schools created just to take GI Bill money without giving an education or presenting a degree.
- Charity scams -- Charities that claim to support military- or veteran-related causes but really don't.
- Fake job scams -- Nonexistent jobs that are offered to military families or veterans and then steal personal information when a person applies for that position.
- DFAS phishing scams -- Fake emails supposedly sent from the Defense Finance and Accounting Service, which attempt to steal personal or financial information.
As always, the best advice for someone who receives an offer that seems too good to be true is that it usually isn't true. Avoid these offers at all costs. For more information, check out FightCybercrime.org/military for more information.
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