Video: AARP presents “Fraud Watch: Operation Protect Veterans”

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Good afternoon and how're you doin? My name is Grantland Rice and I'm a volunteer with AARP, Dallas Area regional office and on behalf of DCCCD and AARP, I'm here to present to you a presentation on fraud that deals specifically with veterans, military and family. Fraud within a veteran community has become an issue as of late because people understand and know that veterans have a tendency to look out for one another and they care for each other. So there's a lot of things going on in the world today where people are out there to basically take advantage of veterans. So what I plan to do is just to give you a brief overview of some of the issues and problems and things that are going on in the veteran community just to, hopefully, help make you aware so that you will know what to expect and what to look for. A lot of you may say, well, why is AARP interested in veterans and fraud? Well, AARP has over 4 million members that are current or former military. They've also found that through surveys, more veterans have lost more money,. 16% to scams than non-veterans, which are 8%, during the past five years. Also, AARP has a Fraud Watch Network, survey, excuse me, a fraud watch network that does both veterans and non-veterans. We collect data from basically around the continental US. A lot of it is driven by input from members, non-members who report and things of that nature. So without further ado, I'm just going to go ahead and get on into it and go from there. Okay. Today we're gonna talk about scams that target veterans, how to protect yourself, and also maybe at the end have a little discussion which may be kind of hard to do in a virtual environment. Next slide, please. So, what are some of the ways veterans are targeted? Ok. Just look at it like this here. I'm pretty sure there are some of you out there who knows somebody who had been targeted for scam or fraud or have been involved in it yourself and actually been targeted yourself. And so the number is astronomical. If you put ten people in a room together, and if I ask this question, you might be surprised at the number of hands that would get raised and they either were victims of fraud or scam or know someone who was targeted. Next slide, please. So what are the top scams that we face being a veteran? Please understand, I'm a victim, myself. Some of our top scams credit card scams, which 75% of veterans surveyed, and this was from the survey that AARP did in 2017, along with the postal service. So 75% of veterans say the main issues are credit card scams. Also tech support scams, which is at 74% Travel scams, charity scams and credit repair scams. Why go after the veteran population? Because there's a lot of people feel and believe that Veterans and Military, they think that we have deep pockets, which we really do not. Next slide, please. So. Some of our top scams that they've seen is when they are contacting asking you to donate money to support your fellow veterans or take advantage of say, like a littleknown. government program for military that could result in lots of cash, or do things say like get a free back brace, arm brace, knee brace, neck brace. Or they'll say, to improve your terms like your VA loan or purchasing cremation services. Just to expand on that a little bit, then, donate money to support your fellow veterans is a big one because they know veterans are a pretty tight-knit community and we're always willing to try to help one another. They may come up with some scheme, some scam say, Hey, you know, this venture needs help or we have this program, this program, and you donate this, this and this, this is what we can do, where the money never goes to a veteran. It actually goes into the pockets of the scammer. And little-known government programs and the military that could result in lots of cash. That's where they all say, You may see ads on TV, saying, Well, if you're a military and you send us this information or wire us this money, we guarantee you we can do XYZ, we can get you to a 100%. We can do all these great things for you that you do not know about. How to get a free back brace, arm brace or knee brace. You've probably seen those on some of the Medicare for commercials here. They guarantee you that they can get you this at no cost to you, but of course they want you to wire them some money or give them some type of information. Improve the terms and your VA loan. You'll see those running and the only ones who can really improve the terms of your VA loan is between you and the lender who you have your loan through. And another big one is purchasing of cremation services at a discount. It will say, yeah, we'll give you this discount because you've been an infantryman and this and that and the other. Please don't get this confused. There are funeral homes out there that do cremation services, That will give you discounts if you're a veteran. But that's totally dependent upon them. But if somebody is trying to contact you, sending you something in the mail and calling you offering you this service, the chance is nine out of ten it's probably not legit. Okay. So what are some of the tactics that scammers use, I mean, with technology comes more opportunity, more accessibility to scam people. So of course, one of the biggest ones is the cell phones now, where they'll use your cell phone calling you. Constantly trying to solicit money from you or things of that nature, or also email scams and pfishing. where they'll send you emails trying to make the email address look as good as it can close to like a dot gov, or something from the VA, something legitimate, hoping that you'll open it, thinking it's from a legitimate agency and provide the information. So when you're doing these things, you just need to be aware. The good thing I can say about the phone scams now is that a lot of cell phone companies out there have built-in these new blocking techniques where, at least on my phone, it automatically recognizes this calls as a scam and it will automatically boot them to a scam folder that is already set up for me. The next slide, please. The other one, robo calls, we get them all the time every day. 48 billion robo calls received in the US in 2018 alone. And nearly half have been scam calls. Now are all robo calls bad? No, because some doctors offices, various businesses and stuff will use robo calls to remind you of appointments and things of this nature. But like as far as now with the phone that I have, I can only speak for my phone, certain robo calls will come in it will automatically alert me and say, possible scam. And I just have a little Block sign that I hit. It will shut it off and I get them no more. But you have to be very, very aware that, yes, robo calls are out there. They exist and they will continue to come at you as veterans for lack of a-- on the simple reason that you may get more money out of your pocket. Next slide, please. The other one you have is a benefit buyout. This is where they offer you cash up front in iexchange for your future disability or pension payments. Basically, what AARP says is consider these carefully. You're typically gonna get a fraction, a whole lot less of the value of your money than what your benefits of worth. In other words, saying you're, you get benefits at $25 thousand. Just use that as a number. They'll say, well okay, well we can get you this and this, but we can get you $35 thousand, but we want you to basically sign over all your benefits to us. Well, when you end up doing that, you'll figure it out that what you're giving them is a whole lot more, way more than what they're giving you. Not only that, doing something like this, if an effect you down the road as far as Medicare, Medicaid, and other types of benefits that you may be eligible for. If you have a concern, are worried about it. There's a number right there you can call, it's 800 827 1000 or you can go to benefits.va.gov /pension. And there you can find and get all the information you need in relation to this. Basically when it comes down to your pension, somebody out there is offering to help you do it. And if it's not the VA, just tell them, Thank you. But no, thank you. Try the website and call the 800 number. And the next slide is another one, the investment pension. That's where shady investors want to overhaul your investment holdings to claim additional government benefits. Okay, you can also go online to www.benefits.va.gov/benefits, to get credible information. Companies out there who are trying to take your money, they're going to do anything and everything they can to get your money out of your hands. So like I said earlier, they're gonna make their websites, they're gonna make their presentations. They're going to make everything seem like it is so legitimate and up and up, that it is through the VA or whatever governmental agency it is, when it really isn't. Okay. And according to the federal trade commission, basically what these guys do, they convince you to transfer their assets to a trust or invest in insurance products so they can qualify for aid and attendance. Most veterans out there who know, who have been in the system, who know anything about the VA, knows that in order to get aid and attendance, you have to apply for it through the VA. There are certain steps, certain procedures. Certain things that you have to meet to even be able to qualify for aid and attendance. So outside agencies saying they can help you, some may be legitimate, but the best part and the easiest way to do it, is just going to the VA itself. And that way you can avoid a whole lot of deceitful practices. Next slide, please. The fake government programs. You can see this all the time. A little-known government program for veterans that can result in big cash. Don't believe it. Find out about it. Once again, there's the website benefits.va.gov/benefits and all of the VA, these websites, they're packed with a lot of information, quite a bit of information. And they will tell you, yes, no, whatever the case may be, you know There you may run into some friends or some individuals who may have went through one of these programs and say, well, it worked for me and this and that and the other. I'm not saying that it didn't, but to be on the safe side, stick with the VA and go through them for basically anything you'd get on the Veterans. And next slide, please. The Veterans Choice Program this year has been changed. Now is called a Veterans Community Program. And what it is is just a program where if the VA cannot provide you health care in a timely manner or you live in a rural area or your so many miles away from the VA, it gets you setup to where you can receive your health care provider thtough a contract that they have with the VA. What if we had paid for it? There would be people who will call who would say they are representatives, and they're authorized to sign you up in the Veterans Choice Program and things of that nature. NO, they're not! The only ones who are authorized to get you into this program are with the VA. And you have the phone number there, 866-606-8198. There's also, you can go online to Veterans Choice Program or just type in VA Veterans Choice Program. And it will come up. Click on it and it will lay out a criteria for you. But as far as somebody calling you saying that they can get you into this program, no, because more than likely they're going to ask you for some type of monetary donation. And next slide, please. Charging for records. Okay. Basically, this is where scammers attempt to charge for access to your DD 214 or whatever forms. Well, we pretty much know as veterans that DD 214, you can go on to the VA. You can actually go into the VA, have them order it for you, get it mailed to you. Or, and you can also go online at the website there in a NASDVA.us /links.aspx and you can request a copy of a DD 214 and they will mail it to you for free. You should never have to pay for your DD 214. I tell people from past experience, also when you get a copy, excuse me, of your DD 214, take it down to your county tax, county tax office assessor's office. And you can actually have it logged in, stored, and they will keep a legitimate copy on file in case, if you misplace it, you can always go there and get another copy. It may cost you a little fee but at least you still have access to it. But if anybody's trying to charge you to get your medical records and military personnel records, any type of record for the military. And they said they can do it, but it's going to cost you, you need to leave them alone because, no, that is not true. You have access to that information and it is free. And next slide, please. The GI Bill. They use, of course, deceptive marketing tactics that get you to attend expensive for-profit schools. You can use a tool to locate or determine your benefits. And if you've seen the website there, I will not go all the way in to it and you can also go to vba.va.gov. If you're not computer savvy or you don't want to do it online, you can always go into your local VA Medical Center and you can go to their VBA. They have an area that's called VBA is a benefit administration. They have an office there, you can go in there and you can sit down and talk to somebody, person to person, person face-to-face, and they would lay this out for you. Okay? So next slide, please. Identity Theft, this here. is a biggie. Having your identity stolen is not an easy thing to do, it's time consuming, trying to get it corrected, trying to get it fixed. It can damage your credit. It just does some harm, irreparable harm at times that is just uncalled for. But there are those out there who are so intent on just getting what they want and they could care less about you, that identity theft, especially in a veteran population, has become a huge, huge thing. Okay? Just so you know, identity theft produces a victim every two seconds. Okay. And that's about thirty five thousand, six hundred dollars that are stolen per minute, And, the next slide, please. When I talk about identity theft with technology, the web, you have what's called a dark web. This web is basically the root of a lot of your deceptive practices out there today. When it comes to-- anyway, then dark web, basically what it is, it's three layers. You have a surface web, it's a public website. It's easily searchable, Google, Yahoo, Firefox, Microsoft, things that we use on a daily basis. You know, we go in and out, we pick up this, get that. Then below that surface web you have a deep web that's where you have your legal content that's really not searchable. This is where you're going to find, you know, like say legal type stuff, excuse me, documentation that you have to have access to given a password. Just say,. for instance, like working at DCCCD. Okay. You, a lot of employees there would be operating more or less in a deep web. We as the general public, have no need to go in there and pull up, say, financial reports or deal with grades or restructuring of classes or anything. So you don't have access to that. Okay? As general consumers, were mostly out here on a surface web but then as you continue down into the web, you get into the dark web and that's where you have hidden, special software. This is when people will go in. They will purchase software. They're willing [inaudible] income purchase. But it only allows them to go in to buy people's identification information, things of that nature. It's really... Base is basically, I'm not gonna say totally consists of criminals. But this is where criminals lie. They go in there. They share data, they find data, they sell data. They get this information, then once they get this information, then they have access to you, to your information. And from there they can just create a myriad of problems. And because of this ability to facilitate buying and selling of information without no constraints or rules on it, terminals are flocked to it. You hear a lot about the emails, come in and say like from Africa or Russia or those fake FBI emails and stuff like that. This is all coming up out of the dark layer. And next slide please. This man right here. He is the godfather of the dark web. And basically the reason it's shown in particular, there is a video that would go with him but we're having some technical difficulties. But what he, he got arrested, he got caught. So now what he's done is he's turned around now he's working with law enforcement and other agencies to try to educate people about the dark web, how it works, what all can be done, and just how damaging it can be to veterans or anybody for that matter. Okay. Also along with this dark web stuff, they go in here and buy information. Also, they have another area they call when they go like dumpster diving, which people I'm pretty sure you're familiar with that. You may throw out some mail with your address or bills that have some information on it. When there are people out there who's going to rummage through your garbage can and get this information. and once they get it, if they have this software and stuff, they can just take it, go online and get into their program, put it up and they can sell it. So ideally, buy a shredder. Anything that has any kind of identifying information on it. It doesn't matter what it is, even if it's a phone number. Shred it. And I am, just me personally, a micro -cut shredder is better than any of them out there. They have found out over time through fraud programmers is that if you did just a straight shredder, a straight-cut shredder, there are criminals out there that will actually take the time to go through and take those strips of paper and piece them back together to get your information. If you do like a micro-cut, it is very difficult to do. So just be aware that any documentation that has any kind of information on it - shred it. I'm not gonna say burn it, but if you can burn it legally then do something to destroy it. Just do not throw it in the garbage. Next slide, please. The VA Phishing Scam. This one here is where they call claiming they are from the VA and ask for personal information to update veterans' military records. Hang up on unsolicited calls from the VA. I'm going to relay this to you from a personal, incident that happened to me. I'm a veteran and I use the VA. During this COVID timeframe, they can turn a whole lot of on-location care. I get a phone call one day from a blocked number. I did not know who it was. And something out of curiosity just told me to answer it. I answered, well, come to find out it was an individual saying he's with the VA and he needed to schedule me for and appointment at one of my upcoming clinical appointment, which I did have an appointment that was upcoming. But I was kind of skeptical. So I hung up. Well, a few days later, I get another call from another cell phone, but this one with not blocked. And there was a young lady saying that she worked for the VA and she needed to schedule my appointment . So me being who I am, I get on the phone trying to contact the VA here in Dallas to ask are you having your employees call people to schedule appointments off of their personal cell phones and stuff? Well, needless to say, in a roundabout way to answer was yes. Why am I saying it this? I'm saying this because the COVID and everything is going on and the way it's going, if we go back into and restrictions and all of that, please be aware. Hopefully after I voiced my complaint and concern that they fix this and it will no longer happen. But I found out from talking to other veterans I wasn't the only one. So yes, sometimes the VA may call you using their personal phones, but now that they're back up to regular speed, they are calling you actually from a VA number. So it's just something that I'm just making you aware of that I just went through. Next slide. Please. Employment Scams. You see it all the time. On the job boards where they say, Hey, apply for this job or, you know, or, you apply for this, we need this information or we need a credit card or we need you to wire some money, or, whatever. It doesn't cost you no money to apply for any job. No job. I don't care how good they may make a seem or whatever they may say they can, you can earn. There is no job out there where you have to pay to apply for a job. But they use this tactic, on veterans because they know a lot of veterans kinda has stayed true to what they did in the military. So they often needs, I guess you could say kinda like slick ways of saying. Well, if you were infantry or this, or this, you can do this, this, and this. But if you send us $100, we can help fix your resume so that it can reflect so that you can get this job. NO. None of that. You don't have to pay for no job or to apply for a job. Next slide, please. Other Common Scams, okay, that target veterans. Next slide. The fake charities, they're out there. They'll be on their claim at a fundraiser for veterans or military-related cause.. But they pocket your money. You can look up any charity that's saying, Hey, donate to me. You can go check them out on charitywatch.org. or charitynavigator.org. Nice thing about these sites is, it will tell you yes, if they're legitimate, what they are about, how much of your dollar goes to their programs, operating cost the whole nine yards. So if anyone is out there trying to get you to donate to the charity or whatever, just go to one of these two websites and take a look at them before you even consider giving them anything. Next slide, please. Special deals, discounts for veterans and military on the range of products like home loans and car purchases. If you get these, the best thing you can do is just go to the benefits.va.gov/ homeloans and take a look and see what's going on with them. I'm pretty sure a lot of you, just like I do, get all these things in the mail and the different loan discounts you can get and everything and then you start reading down in the fine print and it's not affiliated with the VA or whatever. These are ones that their trying to bilk you out of your money. So if you're not sure, don't know the best place to go, just go to benefits .va.gov/homeloans, even if you just go to the VA benefits.gov home page, you can find that link to any of the information that you need to help make sure and keep yourself as safe as possible. Next slide, please. The rental scale. Okay. This is where they offer discounts for active duty military and veterans. Basically, don't put money down on sight unseen and don't wire money. I mean, it may seem simple, but it happens. From me being on active duty where I had to deal with soldiers who came to a new duty station while was there, were like certain rights. Well, we saw that, we sent them the money, we get here, but there is no place here. There's no apartment, there's no house, there's no nothing. Well, they got taken and unfortunately they cannot get their money back. Most soldiers, active duty soldiers know that you can go on and on the base they have housing area, Housing Department, and they'll tell you what renters and so on and so forth out there, who they've had a problem with, whom they haven't had problems with, so on and so forth. But if you're going from one duty station to another, or even if you're just moving from say, somewhere within the Dallas area and they're telling you they got this ad, but you need to wire some money to get the place. Don't do it. Just don't do it. If you don't see it, don't do it. Next slide, please. Some tools and tips. Next slide, please. Some prevention strategies. Don't make a financial decision in a heightened emotional state. And in other words, they had this thing to call it [indiscernible]. That's the term they used. I don't know what if it's still used anymore, bit it's a heightened state where you're dealing with somebody and they get you so hyped up or worked up that it just seemed like a great deal financial-wise and you just pumped money down and then after you come down off that rush and you actually get the documents, if you get anything, you find out that you really just gave your money to somebody and they walked away laughing. Ask questions. Ask questions. Ask questions. And every time you ask a question that they give you an answer, ask another question on top of that question until you get what you want. If you've already feel that, uh-uh, this is not going, just get up, walk away. Read about the product before you buy. Education is paramount, when it comes down to scams and fraud. Read about it before you buy. They say, develop a refusal script and stop unwanted interactions. That can simply be, "No." Now I know you'll say, "Well, shoot, some of the telemarketers, they'll call you and you'll be like, no, I don't want to hear it and they'll keep talking and carrying on." If they don't wanna, hang up. Me, myself, I use a loaded script. I asked them, "Well, why is the sky blue and why is the grass green?" I automatically start getting clicks left and right. The thing you gotta remember about these is that when they're calling calling you and stuff, if they can get your interest for a minute or two or three, then they're going to keep working on you. If they are not successful with you, they will sell your information to somebody else, somewhere down the road they figure somebody is gonna get you. So the easiest way to stop it, ask questions, no, bye. And that's it. Next slide, please. Some more strategies. Protect your social security number and personal information. We shouldn't really have to go into this. We already know don't carry your social security number around with you. As far as drivers licenses, and stuff like that, you know, don't print it out now and especially don't put numbers on your checks. Sometimes when you're dealing with say, purchasing a home, when they ask for a copy of your driver's license, things of that nature, that's understandable. But just to have a copy of it in your wallet or to carry it around with you in your purse, or something. No, don't do that. You need to monitor your bills and financial accounts. Okay. The good thing about it is is that there's a lot of programs that you can use that to help you look over these things, also, when your financial accounts come, a lot of banks, credit unions, and stuff, now if you're a student looking at it and learning and you say, "Hey, wait a minute, this doesn't look like something that you normally do. Did you do this or did you not?" Do your homework before investing. You can go to smartcheck.gov. On smartcheck.gov, it tells you all the different investing strategies, the different stocks, bonds, anything that you're looking at investing in, you can find information there. Of course, your annual credit report. You can go to annualcreditreport.com to requester a free copy of that. Or you can also call them at the 877 number. The biggest thing is, on your credit report, just checking them to make sure that everything is legitimate. And now since a lot of people have had issues with being-- having some fraud done. I get free credit reports through my banking institution and also through my credit card companies I'm with because I was, not scammed, but my information was hacked. So there's a lot of ways you can get free credit reports, but the best way is an annual credit report or calling the 800 number. Next slide, please. Protect your pins and passwords. I smile because PINs and passwords are very important. A lot of times when we do our PIN and password, we will make them simple like 1-2-3, 4-5-6 or things of that nature or we'll have the same PIN and pasdword for every account that we need a PIN and password for. Well, a lot of the business have gotten smart about this and now they have set criteria where you have to have a certain amount of characters, certain amount of letters, and so on and so forth. Whatever you do, make your PIN and your password as difficult as you possibly can. Don't make them the same. Don't take, say if it's 8 - 9 - 10 and then you go to another site and then, you use 10 - 9 - 8. Don't do that. Try to keep each individual PIN and password for each individual area you go into and keep them Totally individual and separate because hackers, they can get in and access and if. you use just one set of PIN and passwords for every name that you do, once they get that access at one time, then they have access to everything. You need to protect your information online. Okay. And protecting information online, Emails are coming from a bank or internet service provider, business or charity where they're asking you your personal information or account number, and most businesses like we know now are not asking for this information at all. You know, conducting financial, personal business, on a shared public networks and stuff, and speaking of this, although it's not in here, there's this thing they've got out there called JuiceJacking. It's fairly new. But it is when you go to, say like an airport or some place and local place, you plug your phone in because you want to charge it. Well with your jack that you use and your cable, it is used to both carry data and to charge. They can actually hack in to this. And if you do online banking and things of this nature, they can actually access that information from you. A couple of ways you can avoid that, is just simply take your regular plug you plug into at home and bring it with you, plug it in and charge it that way. Get you an external battery pack and charge it and keep it with you and plug your phone in to charge it. Or you can go on to Amazon, and I'm not sitting here just saying that because I'm trying to get their business. But there is a cord that you can buy that is used for one thing and one thing only and that is for charging. It does not transmit data, or nothing, ist' just strictly charging. And the simple thing about it is it's one little pin that they have taken out that stops the data transmission. Okay. Protect your mail. Big time. When you go on vacation, go online to the post office and put it into paperwork to have them hold your mail so that your mailbox isn't there full of mail where people driving by looking at it and say, "Okay, it's cool. Nobody's touched it now." They just drive up, take it and walk away with it. It may be a credit card in there. You never know what may be in there. So if you're leaving on vacation, fill out the form to have them stop your mail till you come back and then start back getting it. For the pre-screen and stuff you can opt-out of that at optoutprescreen.com. Or you can call the number or you can also go to dmachoice.org. Yes, we get a lot of junk mail. And believe me, protecting your mail today is so important because there have even here where I live at, we've had incidents, and some of them on film, where people have just come up and see people's mailboxes full and they'll and just walk up, take it, and walk away. So please whatever you do if you leave and go on vacation, or whatever, just protect your mail. Next slide, please. Some other strategies. Sign-up for the National Do Not Call registry. donotcall.gov, and there's a number. And also when you deal with people, double-check your references. Sometimes when you're dealing with entities online, you'll go in and they'll say, OK, here's a list of references or people will make remarks and statements about me, about them saying this is this and that and the other. Go out and just search complaints or whenever against such and such company. Pull that up and then start reading what other people have to say. Don't rely specifically only on people who are on their website, or whatever. Okay? The Do Not Call registry, it works. But also be aware that now each state has their own Do Not Call registry, too. Texas, It is called, Texas No Call. And if you go to the public utilities commissions web page of Texas, you'll see on there, it'll tell you, Texas Do Not Call. You click on it and it'll show you how you can set it up for the State of Texas. Okay. Charities. Like I said before, you want to verify your charity, charitywatch.org and also charitynavigator.org. Next slide, please. Basically, and ending, I know it may seem kinda like I'm rushing you but AARP are here for Veterans. We're here for everybody and anybody. Okay? If you're a Veteran and you want more information about what AARP does and have to offer for veterans. You have our website, there, AARP.org/veterans and also our fraud watch network, which is AARP.org/fraudwatchnetwork. I will highly ask you to go look at the fraud watch network. What's nice about this on AARP is that you could go in, pull up your state, put in your zip code and it will drill down to within your area and show you the frauds and scams and all the stuff that has been going on in your neighborhood just in your general area. And it will give you the whole nine yards names that you might not even be aware of that's going up. You'll also have a network help line which is 877-908-3360. Like I said, when I started, I am not no fraud expert. I'm not no-- any of that. All I am, I'm a Veteran. I volunteer with AARP, I usually do this presentation live and in person, which is a whole different thing, cause it's a lot more interactive and a lot more fun if I get feed back. But my one thing is hopefully, if anything, I at lease gave you some insight into scams and frauds of names that may be going on. And just to help maybe, you know, you pass the word on to somebody else to help them. Like I said, no, I'm not a professional and I never say I am. But I thank you for your time. I hope you gleaned something from it. And on behalf of the AARP and Dallas Area Regional Office thank you very much