Experts warn veterans about latest scam

FILE - In this June 21, 2013, file photo, the seal affixed to the front of the Department of Veterans Affairs building in Washington. The Senate has approved legislation that would extend a program aimed at widening veterans' access to private-sector health care. The bill passed by voice vote. It would allow the Department of Veterans Affairs to continue operating its Choice program until its money runs out, expected early in 2018. (AP Photo/Charles Dharapak, File)

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (KRQE) – While many of us are spending Memorial Day honoring those who gave the ultimate sacrifice, experts say thieves are now targeting our veterans through their medical care.

The Federal Trade Commission says thieves are pretending to be from the Department of Veterans Affairs office and are taking hundreds, even thousands of dollars from innocent veterans over the phone.

Officials say schemers are using a phone number that’s almost identical to the Veteran’s Choice Program which allows certain eligible vets to use approved health care providers who are outside of the VA system.

Veterans or families can call the VCP’s toll-free number to verify their eligibility for the program.

However, with that fake line setup, confused veterans call and think they’ve actually reached the VCP line.

Experts say the fake line’s message says they’re entitled to a rebate if they provide a credit card number. That’s how thieves are getting their bank information and debiting it from their accounts.

“They move very fast when you give them your information. Never give out private information over the phone. No legitimate person is going to ask you for that information over the phone,” said Hunter Unschuld, Fractal Profile Wealth Management.

To protect yourselves from schemes like this one, Unschuld also suggests that veterans do research ahead of time, avoid any wire transfers, and put an “active duty alert” on their credit reports.

Unschuld says doing so will help to minimize the risk of identity theft because it requires lenders to verify your identity before approving new credit lines and removes your name from preapproved credit offers for two years.

Unschuld says these thieves are even hitting veterans here in New Mexico. He says one of his clients who got the same kind of call–but knew something wasn’t right and hung-up.

There’s other schemes that veterans need to be aware of too, including identity theft scams, banks and lender scams, debt collection scams, and prizes, sweepstakes & lottery scams.