Report: Military members lost more than $400M to scammers since 2012


HAMPTON ROADS, Va. (WAVY) — A new report shows members of the military have been scammed out of hundreds of millions of dollars in the last decade.

Research firm Comparitech compiled data from the Federal Trade Commission and the Better Business Bureau, and found scammers had cheated service men and women out of $405 million since 2012.

“Sometimes you just don’t really know if they’re saying the truth or not,” sailor Angie Ramirez said.

“There’s a few car dealers out there that are trying to scam sailors,” said Spencer Curran, who, like Ramirez, is a Navy E-2 and doesn’t want to get ripped off.

A financial counselor for 25 years, Karen Melvin says military members are often easy prey because they don’t read the fine print.

“We have great programs about how to be a savvy consumer,” said Melvin, the Work and Family Life Program Lead for Fleet and Family Support Mid Atlantic. She and her staff help sailors and their loved ones keep from becoming scammers’ targets.

“They don’t want to negotiate, they don’t want to read a whole contract, they don’t understand some of the terms,” she said.

The Federal Trade Commission found that veterans are likely to lose the most in a scam. Their average loss was $950. For active duty, it was $775, and both of those were worse than the average civilian loss of $658.

The military has an off-limits list, warning service members about deceptive or predatory businesses.

Cmdr. Anne Marks, Navy Staff Judge Advocate, says officials evaluate several criteria before deeming a business off-limits.

“It might be drug abuse, an unfair commercial practice, discriminatory practices — anything that is detrimental to good order and discipline,” she said.

If members then patronize those businesses, they are violating an order.

“We’re told to stay away. We’re not permitted to go there, and it’s a direct order,” Curran said.

Several of the businesses on the off-limits list include vape shops. It’s not necessarily for financial reasons, but because they sell substances that are illegal for active duty military at any age.

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