Scam artists turn Veterans into victims

FRESNO, Calif.

The scams run from simple phone calls digging for personal information to complicated online scams targeting lonely veterans looking for love.

No number of awards or honors can protect American service members from the criminal minds of scam artists. The Better Business Bureau says Veterans Day is prime season for crooks to turn veterans into victims.

"They can ruin your credit," said Cindy Dudley of the BBB. "They can bankrupt you and it's really a tangled up mess to get it back when you're a victim of identity theft."

The most common schemes involve phone calls from people claiming to be with the Veterans Administration. They'll dig for personal information -- like credit card numbers, financial records, and Social Security numbers -- claiming the VA needs to update the records.

"What they're looking to do is obtain enough information that they can steal the veteran's identity," Dudley said.

But the VA won't call veterans to update records. It only contacts vets through the postal service. The BBB also says scam artists will call civilians, asking for charitable donations to veterans' organizations. But like the VA, local chapters of the VFW don't make phone calls.

"We do fundraising," said Ed Diaz, the commander for VFW Post 8900 in northwest Fresno. "We do community service. We provide for our veterans that are here and we do not do phone calling and asking them to give donations."

Veterans say these scams are offensive. They say the criminals are stealing more than just identities. They're stealing honor, dignity, and pride.

"They are stealing what the veterans have given their lives for," Diaz said.

The Better Business Bureau in Arizona just stopped a new military scam Thursday. A service member's grandparents were contacted by someone claiming they were in Spain and needed money to bail out of jail, so they could come home.

The BBB has a special web page where military personnel can find out about specific scams.

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