Con artists troll
for patriotic consumers
When U.S. troops shipped out to
Iraq, con artists headed for Americans' wallets, using patriotism
to make a profit.
Unfortunately, this is not a new phenomenon. "Fraud
perpetrators pick newsworthy events to trigger interest in their
marketing ploys," says Ken Hunter, president and CEO of the
Council of Better Business Bureaus.
The latest batch of con artists are profiting off
the war effort in a number ways -- from hawking deals on unnecessary
survival gear to collecting for bogus charities.
Telemarketer targets troops' family members
Would you pay $100 a month to get daily updates on your family
member serving in the military? Many families would, but that's
not a service the government is selling. It's a scam thought up
by con artists.
Jerry Maness of Service, Ala., has a nephew named
William who is serving in the Navy. Maness received a call in early
April from a man who seemed to think he was talking to William's
father -- not his uncle. The caller promised that for $100 a month
his company would give Maness a daily update on William's status.
The man asked for Maness's credit card number. Maness didn't fall
for it. He called the sheriff.
"I think you have to be a lowlife sort
of person to do something like this," says Maness.
Fake refund fools military families
Another scam targeting military families are callers posing
as Internal Revenue Service representatives. A person claiming to
be from the IRS calls military family members and says they are
entitled to a $4,000 tax refund because their family member is serving
in the military. The caller asks for a credit card number to cover
a $42 postage fee and gives an IRS toll-free number as a call-back
number. While the family member waits for a refund, the scammer
is busy making purchases with the credit card. In a variation of
this scam, potential victims receive an e-mail that links them to
a fake IRS Web site where they are asked to enter their personal
and financial information.
The IRS says that genuine IRS employees would not
ask for a credit card number, request fees for payment of a refund
or request personal information by e-mail. Similar
scams target nonmilitary families, as well.
Donating to the wrong cause
Some con artists are taking advantage of Americans' compassion
by posing as war-related charities or promising their proceeds to
war-related charities -- but never delivering.
Be wary of phone calls, unsolicited e-mails or Web
sites asking for donations for veterans, troops, families of troops
or war orphans. One Web site promised that 10 percent of the sales
of its patriotic T-shirts would benefit the Red Cross Disaster Relief
fund. The BBB reports the Red Cross never heard of the Web site.
out all charities before making a donation.
Likewise, charities and businesses should investigate
anyone they give their money to. There have been reports of people
posing as veterans asking for donations or willing to do speaking
engagements. Numerous Web sites have been set up to verify military
service and expose frauds. Soldiers for the Truth, a nonprofit education
and information organization, has detailed information on how
to verify military service claims. The POW Network has an online
of phony vets and a link to report
a suspected phony.