Scams Target Veterans

Scams often target those who are vulnerable.

Not all scams involve “family members” stranded overseas, Nigerian princes, or European lotteries.

In some cases, they imitate legitimate organizations that benefit worthy causes.

With Memorial Day around the corner, the Pennsylvania Department of Military and Veterans Affairs (DMVA), the Warren County Veterans Affairs office (VA), the County Commissioners Association of Pennsylvania (CCAP), the Warren County Commissioners, and the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) are getting together to warn people about some common ways veterans and people looking to donate to them can fall victim.

There are many valid organizations that are looking out for the best interest of veterans and use an overwhelming portion of donations for their benefit, according to the Veterans Affairs office. However, there are also people out there looking to line their pockets at the expense of those trying to help.

Making donations

CCAP and FTC issued a release recently warning people about “sham operators whose only purpose is to make money for themselves.”

“Many legitimate charities are soliciting donations to support the nation’s military veterans as well as the families of active-duty personnel,” according to the release. “Not all ‘charities’ are legitimate.”

Some organizations use names and logos very similar to those of legitimate, known organizations.

The FTC recommends visiting the websites militaryonesource.mil to check on an organization and nasconet.org to see if an organization is registered in the state and how much of each donation goes to the charity.

“If you think an organization may not be legitimate, contact your state attorney general – attorneygeneral.gov or the FTC – ftccomplaintassistant.gov.

FTC also suggests making donations by check for security and tax purposes, and that checks are made out to the charity, not a paid fund-raiser acting on the charity’s behalf.

It is illegal to require a donation to make someone eligible to win a sweepstakes, according to the release.

“The legitimate veterans organizations as well as veterans are harmed whenever one of these bogus groups get donations that are fraudulently obtained and do not help veterans in any way,” Commissioner John Eggleston, who is a trustee of the Warren County Veterans Council, said. “We want to help educate the public to the danger and the damage of these groups.”

Applying for benefits

The Warren County VA office in the Warren County Courthouse is the appropriate place to apply for benefits. According to the office, paying a lawyer or some organization that claims it can help with applying for benefits is unnecessary.

A release from DMVA and CCAP emphasizes, “Pennsylvania veterans should never pay for help to apply for benefits.”

“We’ve seen advertisements from businesses that offer veterans assistance in applying for benefits for free, and then end up charging a fee for financial planning services,” Brig. Gen. Mike Gould, deputy adjutant general for veterans’ affairs, said. “We need to get the word out that veterans should never pay for these services. Free assistance is readily available from any accredited veterans service officer at the DMVA, or through a chartered veterans service organization such as the American Legion, VFW, DAV, or AMVETS, to name a few.”

Gould is the chairman of the Pennsylvania Veterans Foundation. Warren County Veterans Affairs Director Ed Burris is vice chairman of that organization.