“Fraudsters are getting smarter, more deliberate and more engaged. They’re getting better,” said Charles Tapp II, chief financial officer for the Veterans Benefits Administration. “We are seeing a lot more instances where veterans — particularly seniors — are getting fraudulent calls. So, we certainly are making our senior veterans more aware about pension poaching.”
Military Times’ recent article entitled “Scams targeting veterans’ pensions, benefits raise worry among VA officials” says that earlier this year, the Federal Trade Commission reported that about 2.8 million Americans filed fraud complaints last year, which was the most ever. The agency estimated that consumers lost more than $5.8 billion to scams last year.
Pension theft can happen when an outside party — a stranger or someone known to a veteran, such as a caregiver — advises the vet to move their payouts to a new bank account or a separate financial product (annuities or trusts, for example), which keeps them from accessing the money.
Tapp said when veterans’ bank accounts are changed without explanation, it triggers an internal check within VA to ensure that fraud isn’t happening. However, there are other theft schemes that are harder to detect, and may only be corrected after months of malfeasance have already occurred.
VA department officials are reminding vets that it doesn’t charge to process applications for benefits and services. It is also against the law for an outside group or attorney to charge claimants for preparing benefits applications.
“No one can guarantee that the VA will award you a benefit or service, not even someone who is VA accredited,” a department fact sheet on pension poaching states. “Only the VA can determine eligibility and award benefits and services.”
Tapp explained that if vets are confused about available services or benefits, they can contact VA’s National Call Center at 1-800-827-1000. However, if someone calls about veterans benefits and asks for personal information, the interaction is likely a scam.
“If you are unsure [about an unsolicited call], please hang up and call that number back,” he said. “We record and log every call … so [staff] should be able to confirm that they just called and provide any information veterans need.
“We want to make sure that veterans know that they are in control of their information, particularly when they’re engaging with us.”
Reference: Military Times (April 14, 2022) ““Scams targeting veterans’ pensions, benefits raise worry among VA officials,”