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TDCI, Attorney General's Office warn of financial scams aimed at military veterans

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The Tennessee Department of Commerce & Insurance (TDCI) is warning Tennessee residents of financial scams aimed at local veterans.

TDCI officials, along with the Tennessee Attorney General's Consumer Protection Division Office, are urging Tennessee veterans and their families to be cautious. 

“All too often military families are the focus of con artists who target them because of their steady, guaranteed incomes and their prolonged time away from home for deployments,” said TDCI Commissioner Julie Mix McPeak. “We urge Tennesseans to be familiar with the red flags that can help identify and prevent scams created to rob veterans of a bright future.”

The TDCI and Attorney General's Office have a few tips for veterans to keep in mind: 

  • Be wary of advertisers offering "special military prices" or "special military financing": Some businesses will advertise special deals for service members and veterans, but will try to extract higher prices or interest rates than those paid by regular customers. Do your homework and research the price and cost of interest you should pay before doing business with someone who claims to provide these types of special deals.
  • Avoid identity theft: Guard your confidential personal information. Do not give out your Social Security number, military information, bank account information or credit card numbers unless you are certain you are dealing with a reputable business. Never give this information out in response to an unsolicited telephone call or email request.
  • Check your credit report regularly: Make sure no suspicious activity has been reported under your name. Everyone is entitled to one free credit report every twelve months from each of the three major credit bureaus. Visit www.annualreditreport.com to get your free credit reports.
  • Be wary of free trial memberships of free trials that aren't free: Scammers often try to grab your attention with eye-catching free trial offers, but then require that you pay a nominal fee so they can get your debit or credit card number. Some companies won’t charge you anything at first, but request bank information upfront in order to begin billing you after the free trial period ends, hoping you won’t notice the continuing charges right away. While some of these offers may be legitimate, make sure you know exactly who you are dealing with and how to cancel the service before providing your financial information. 
  • Be wary of up-front fees: Scammers often say that they can help you access your benefits or get a good interest rate on a loan if you provide them an upfront fee. If you encounter this, remember that the military offers legal assistance, interest-free emergency loans and financial planning tools. Ask your military installation offices for details.
  • Always find out what the total price is:  Scammers hide the true cost of a product through numerous installment payments. They can offer misleading information about how much something really costs once all the payments and fees are added up. If the total price is too high, take your business elsewhere.
  • Beware predatory lending schemes:  Predatory lenders target military personnel because they typically are young, are inexperienced with finances, and do not have an emergency fund saved.  Additionally, service members are paid regularly and have job security. 
  • Don't trust promises about the future: Some scammers will promise changes to the terms of the loan that will occur in the future. Before handing over any money, make sure that everyone agrees to the final terms of a deal.
  • Find out with whom you are dealing: Some scam artists will portray themselves as something they are not in order to get your business. If you are worried about validity of the salesperson, ask your installation community service office about the company or individual. 
  • Be wary of house calls and telemarketers: If an individual comes to your door or calls your house promising assistance with accessing your Department of Veterans Affairs benefits, you should be wary of the validity of their service. The VA doesn't generally make house calls, and it doesn't participate in telemarketing.

If you believe you might be a victim of financial fraud, file a complaint or speak to an investigator at the Tennessee Securities Division - Financial Services Investigations Unit at (615)741-5900. You can also file a complaint online

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