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WARNING: This Veterans Day, BBB warns of military scams and fake charities

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MILWAUKEE (WITI) — The Better Business Bureau Serving Wisconsin is reminding veterans and their loved ones to be aware of scams that may be targeting them. If you’re looking to donate this holiday, BBB is offering advice for consumers looking to give to military-affiliated charities.

Some common scams target service members and their families, including elderly veterans. The most common military scams to watch out for include:

  • Posing as the Veterans Administration and contacting vets to say they need to update their financial records with the VA;
  • Charging veterans for services they could get for free or less expensively elsewhere, such as military records;
  • Fraudulent investment schemes that convince veterans to transfer their assets into an irrevocable trust;
  • Offering “instant approval” military loans (“no credit check,” “all ranks approved”) that can have high interest rates and hidden fees;
  • Advertising housing online with military discounts and incentives, and then bilking service personnel out of the security deposit;
  • Trying to sell things like security systems to spouses of deployed military personnel by saying the service member ordered it to protect his or her family;
  • Selling stolen vehicles at low prices by claiming to be soldiers who need to sell fast because they’ve been deployed;
  • Posing as government contractors recruiting veterans and then asking for a copy of the job applicants’ passport (which contains important personal information);
  • Posing on online dating services as a lonely service member in a remote part of Iraq or Afghanistan, and then asking for money to be wired to a third party for some emergency.

If you’re interested in donating to a military-affiliated charity this Veterans Day, BBB recommends the following tips:

  • Watch out for charities that sound similar to more well-known ones. Many veterans’ charities include the same words in different order or form to appear legitimate.
  • Look for a clear description of the organization’s programs in its appeals and on its website. If the charity says it’s helping veterans, does it explain how (financial assistance, shelter, counseling) and where it is doing so?
  • Telemarketing can be a costly method of fundraising unless carefully managed. If called, do not hesitate to ask for written information on the charity and its finances before making a decision.
  • Be wary of excessive pressure in fundraising. Don’t be pressured to make an immediate on-the-spot donation. Charities should welcome your gift whenever you want to send it.
  • If donating clothing or other goods, find out how the charity benefits from the collection and re-sale of gifts.
  • Check first before giving, for free, with charity monitoring services like BBB’s give.org and the state government’s charity registration agency (in WI: Wisconsin Department of Financial Institutions  Charitable Organizations and Fund Raising; WDFI.org).

BBB advises service members, veterans, and all consumers to never give out personal information to any unknown person who contacts you by phone, email, or solicitation, especially those that involve purchasing something or transferring money.

For further information, visit BBB’s Military Line. Follow the BBB on Facebook and Twitter. For an online version of the story click here.