COLUMBUS, Ohio (WCMH) — July is Military Consumer Protection month and like all consumers, servicemembers are potential targets for fraudsters.
According to data from the Better Business Bureau, military members, their families, and veterans are especially at risk for online shopping scams.
“The top three riskiest scams in 2021 were online purchases, cryptocurrency, and employment scams,” said LeeAnn Lanigan, director of investigations for the BBB of Central Ohio.
According to the BBB’s online shopping scam report, more than 10% of victims in online purchase scams were members of the military community. Both active-duty military (78.3%) and spouses (75.2%) were more likely to report losing money to these types of scams than non-military consumers (75%).
The BBB says there are multiple reasons for this susceptibility: the convenience of cross-country and overseas shipping because military families relocate frequently and many servicemembers are living on their own earning a paycheck for the first time.
President of the BBB of Central Ohio, Judy Dollison, said the best way to avoid falling victim is to arm yourself with knowledge.
“We know that scammers can be very friendly,” Dollison said. “They act like they are on your side. They’re trying to present an opportunity to you that’s too good to pass up.”
But if it looks too good to be true, it probably is. The BBB said scammers use bargain pricing to entice online shoppers who may get a counterfeit item or never receive the product at all. Your safest bet is to buy directly from the source such as a brand, manufacturer, or established store.
“Don’t click or open links that were sent to you through an unsolicited email or through social media,” said Dollison.
When it’s time to pay, Lanigan said you should never pay with gift cards or peer-to-peer payment apps like Venmo, Zelle or CashApp.
“There are no protections in a peer-to-peer money transaction like that, so the money’s really, really gone,” said Lanigan.
“Always use secure, traceable forms of payment,” added Dollison.
The BBB offers a closer look at the top 10 scams targeting military families, and ways to protect yourself from schemes, which you can find here.