North Carolina Department of Justice

North Carolina Department of Justice

North Carolina Department of Justice
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Thanks for protecting us, and please protect yourselves, too

11/9/2012

By Attorney General Roy Cooper

On Veterans Day we honor the commitment and dedication of the men and women who have served our country in the armed forces. But it’s also a good time to remind our veterans and service members of some of the dangers they can face here at home.
 
While veterans, reservists and active duty military personnel have worked to protect our nation, my office works to protect them—and all North Carolinians—from frauds, scams, and unfair business practices.
 
Scams often target retired military personnel. We recently warned about scammers who tell veterans they’ll help them navigate the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) benefits process, but instead rip them off.
 
In most cases, individuals must be accredited by the VA in order to represent veterans seeking benefits, and they aren’t supposed to charge for their services unless they’re helping to appeal a VA decision. If you need assistance with your benefits, get accredited help. Search the VA’s website  or contact an accredited Veterans Service Organization such as the NC Division of Veterans Affairs .

Men and women currently serving in our Army, Air Force, Marines, Navy, Coast Guard, National Guard and Reserves are also targeted by frauds and scams. Here are some of the most common consumer problems that military personnel face:
 
Identity Theft: Active duty military personnel who are deployed overseas may be vulnerable to identity theft, because it’s more difficult for them to monitor their credit. Putting a free security freeze or active duty alert in place before you deploy can help protect your credit. A security freeze blocks access to your credit report without your permission, which can prevent an identity thief from opening a new account or getting credit in your name. An active duty alert lasts for a year and requires businesses to verify your identity before issuing new credit. With an active duty alert, you can designate a personal representative, such as a spouse, who can verify your identity or remove the active duty alert while you’re away. For more information about security freezes and active duty alerts, visit www.ncdoj.gov.
 
Auto Loans: Watch out for abusive auto financing if you’re in the market for a car. The Pentagon has found that unfair car sales practices frequently target military personnel. Dealers sometimes add expensive items into the loan agreement such as theft deterrent systems, extended warranties, and extra insurance to cover loan payments in case the car is involved in an accident. These unnecessary items can cost you a lot of money.
 
“Financial Planning” and Insurance: Unscrupulous financial advisers try to target soldiers and sailors for investments that carry high fees. Insurance agents are now banned from trying to sell insurance at mandatory-attendance meetings on base, and they’re also banned from using senior personnel to help them make their pitch. However despite recent crackdowns, military personnel remain at risk. Some insurance companies try to pressure military personnel into purchasing insurance they don’t really need.
 
Advance Fee Loans and Credit Card: Beware of advertisements promising easy access to loans and credit cards even if you have bad credit. “Advance fee” scams try to get you to pay upfront for help getting a loan or credit card, but once the payment is made the loan or new line of credit never materializes. Under North Carolina law, it is illegal to charge an advance fee for a loan or a credit card.
 
To avoid these and other consumer problems:
 
  • Watch out for scammers who try to gain your trust by claiming a connection to the military.
  • When preparing to deploy, put an active duty alert or a security freeze on your credit report.
  • Be cautious when buying a car, particularly a used car. Research the car’s history and get it inspected by an independent mechanic. And remember that used cars are typically sold “as is,” meaning the dealer isn’t responsible for fixing problems once you drive the car off the lot.
  • Don’t get pressured into buying unnecessary insurance or putting your money in risky investments. Choose reliable ways to invest your money, such as the military’s Savings Deposit Program, and max out your government-issued insurance before you buy any other.
  • Beware of “advance fee” loans and credit cards. Remember, legitimate lenders will not charge you money upfront.
  • If you think you’ve been tricked or gotten a bad deal, file a complaint with my Consumer Protection Division at www.ncdoj.gov or call 1-877-5-NO-SCAM toll-free within North Carolina. Filing a complaint will not hurt your military record, and we won’t communicate with your chain of command unless you ask us to.