Military Phone Scams: How Scammers Target Military Personnel

Phone Scams That Affect the MilitaryFrequently, we hear stories of military personnel identities being used in romance scams. Profile photos and names can easily be stolen from the social media of those serving and con artists will then use those identities to convince their victims to send money.

Another common scam that active duty and veterans face are pension and benefits scams. A fraudster will call and offer to help with the necessary paperwork, but in reality they are stealing personal information.

Active duty military personnel and veterans are just as much of a target, if not more of target, than civilians for fraud and identity theft. The Consumer Sentinel Network (CSN) compiles millions of complaints each year from the FTC and other organizations committed to protecting consumer rights, among the complaints that they receive are those of military consumers.

The CSN received 96,578 complaints from military consumers in 2015. The U.S. Army reported the majority of these complaints with 48%, they were followed by the U.S. Navy (21%), the U.S. Air Force (20%), the U.S. Marines (10%) and the U.S. Coast Guard (2%).

Are certain individuals being targeted more than others?

Military retirees and veterans reported the highest amount of fraud and identity theft complaints, making up 65% of military complaints. The second highest group of targeted individuals were dependent spouses of service members, accounting for 13% of complaints. Active duty service members made up 7% of the complaints.

What are the most common types of scams?

The table below shows the top five most common types of scams that affected military consumers in 2015.

Type of Scam Percent Reported
Identity Theft 30%
Impostor Scams 29%
Debt Collection 8%
Banks and Lenders  6%
Prizes, Sweepstakes and Lotteries 2%

As opposed to civilian consumers, who were most affected by fraud related to debt collection, military consumers suffered from identity theft and impostor scams the most.

Identity theft is classified as the act of someone stealing your personal identification in order to commit fraud. It can be the result of personal information being stolen via a phone call, email, mail, or a hacked online or mobile account.

Compromised government documents and benefits made up over 51% of complaints related to identity theft. This includes stolen tax information and wages, as well as government benefits. This was followed by credit card fraud, which accounted for almost 16% of identity theft complaints. The majority of these complaints were related to new accounts being opened with stolen information.

Impostor scams account are the most common type of phone scams. In an impostor scam a fraudster will claim to be a family member in trouble, a computer technician, a government official, or a charity.

The banks and lenders category includes a typical phone scam and include payday and other loan offers, mortgage and credit refinancing, and other lending issues. Prizes, sweepstakes and lotteries is another phone scam that people receive. Usually an automated, robocall offering a too-good-to-be-true free vacation or cash prize, these calls are pure spam.

What can be done to prevent fraud?

The best way to prevent fraud is to know your rights and report any suspected scams to the proper authorities. Never trust an unsolicited phone call in which the caller asks for your personal information. In cases, such as these say you'll call back later and hang up. Once you've hung up you can check the number in a number tracer, like CallerSmart, to check for any suspicious behavior. You can also report your feedback on a suspicous number to help others in our iPhone app. If you don't have an iPhone, you can still run reverse number look ups on our website and report numbers in order to help others avoid scams. 

If you think you've been targeted by a scammer be sure to report it to local authorities, your state's attorney general and the correct government organizations.