Commentary: Scammers who target veterans

July is Military Consumer Month. At Better Business Bureau, that means we double down on our efforts to educate and protect military service members, veterans, and their families. We know con artists don’t spare anyone, even military families. In fact, according to the 2018 BBB Scam Tracker Risk Report, military consumers lose 33 percent more money to scammers than non-military consumers.

That stat is just one piece of the puzzle. The nature of a military career often sees service members and their families venture from joining the military and earning a steady paycheck to moving every few years to long family separations to an ultimate transition out of the military. Throughout this venture, military families face a myriad of decisions, often with significant financial consequences.

Knowing which businesses military families can trust while dealing with the challenges of military life is not easy. The coronavirus pandemic has further exacerbated that problem, with many consumers flocking to new websites to buy essential items. During chaotic times, making quick purchasing decisions can leave you vulnerable to scammers and imposters out to steal money from unsuspecting victims.

Keep these quick tips in mind (and share them!) to find a legitimate business you can trust:

  • Never rush to make a purchasing decision. Take your time to evaluate products, services and the businesses that provide them, especially if you’ve never engaged with the company before.
  • Search for businesses with good online reviews and ratings, and ask people you trust for references. Checking BBB Business Profiles is always a great place to start!
  • Make sure the business shares important considerations about the purchase, including any applicable warranty, shipping and return information, and timeline for receiving the product or completing the service. You also should check a company’s privacy policy so you know how they can use your data when shopping online.

Another significant obstacle for military members and families is navigating the employment market. Whether a servicemember is new to the civilian job space or a family member is looking for a job on the heels of a move, there are big risks involved with job hunting.

BBB released a report last month highlighting employment scams as the riskiest scam two years running, in both 2018 and 2019. A look at the data in the Employment Scams Report revealed that between February 2016 and May 2020, employment scams are even riskier than previously reported; 19.2 percent of military spouses and 16.6 percent of veterans encountering the scam reported a financial loss, compared with 15.5% for non-military consumers. And for every person who reported losing money, at least another worked without pay, and yet another lost personal information that could lead to identity theft.

While the largest financial losses were reported by military spouses ($1,825) and veterans ($1,905), even service members reported much higher median losses ($1,680) than non-military consumers ($1,000). Part of the monetary loss correlates with the 28 percent of survey respondents that said they were looking for flexible, “gig” type employment opportunities when they encountered the fraudulent job. Flexible work or work-from-home positions are more likely to be scams.

One of the biggest deterrents to employment scams? Spreading the word about these scams. According to our research, those who heard of employment scams and shady tactics prior to encountering a scam were significantly less likely to lose money. This reinforces the notion that everyone has a part to play, especially when it comes to keeping our military members safe from scams. For example, respondents from our survey reported that interventions by bank tellers and retail employees were very helpful in convincing them to walk away before losing money; 13 percent of survey respondents said an organization, company or agency employee tried to intervene and stop the scam – and 69 percent of the time, they were successful in their efforts.

Family and friends can also share valuable information on scam prevention. Check out or share the website with the servicemembers in your life. At, you can find out more about BBB Military Line (our community outreach program facilitated by local Better Business Bureaus across the U.S. and Canada) as well as online resources like our e-newsletter, BBB Saluting Trust. BBB is here to support our country’s military members and families in the marketplace, searching for a job, and planning for the future.

Sheron Patrick is the Communications Manager for the Better Business Bureau of Northwest and Pacific serving Alaska. He lives in Anchorage where he and his team write articles and alerts on tips to help keep Alaskan consumers safe.