Military Consumer Month comes around each July, and it is a time to reflect on the challenges service members face as they return to civilian life. It’s also a time when organizations like Better Business Bureau can help guide military families through the marketplace to find businesses they can trust.
What some might not know is that service members, veterans and their families are more likely to be targeted by scammers. This is most likely because they’re often relatively young, and scammers know they have regular paychecks coming in. Military consumers who become victims of scams also lost 33% more money than their civilian counterparts in 2018, with a median loss of $200.
According to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), impostor scams were the top scam reported by military consumers last year. We know that imposters will often pose as banks, government agencies or even Better Business Bureau as a way to gain a consumer’s trust and steal their personal information. Military families could be particularly vulnerable if scammers claim to be from government programs designed for veterans or service members.
It’s important for anybody, but especially military consumers, to remember the following when working with new businesses:
• Never rush to decide. Take your time to evaluate and compare products and services, as well as the businesses that provide them. This is especially important if you’re dealing with a new business.
• Search for good reviews. A good place to check for reviews and ratings is bbb.org. Reviews can help you see what kind of experiences others have had with a company. You can also ask friends and family for references.
• Get all the important information. When making a big purchase, be sure the business gives you all the important considerations, such as warranties, delivery dates and return policies. This information could help shape your decision.
• Work with properly licensed businesses. Always check tdlr.texas.gov to be sure the company you’re working with has the appropriate licenses for the services they provide.
There are also plenty of resources available for service members and veterans looking to improve their financial literacy. BBB has a program called Military Line®, which offers different newsletters, presentations and programs on navigating the marketplace. There will also be a new research report released later this month by BBB in partnership with the Association of Military Banks of America. Militaryconsumer.gov is another good resource for assisting service members with financial readiness.
Emily Gaines is the public relations coordinator for the Bryan-College Station office of Better Business Bureau.