In the wake of COVID-19, the Employment Scams Report, which surveyed 10,670 U.S. and Canadian consumers who reported encountering an employment scam in the last three years, found that nearly three-quarters of those who lost money had trouble paying their monthly bills and more than half were unemployed. The top reason victims engaged with the scammer was the ability to work from home – a critical need of those balancing family obligations and unpredictable PCOS moves. Flexibility was also noted as a top reason for engaging in these opportunities.
The 2019 Military Consumers and Marketplace Trust report, published with support from the Association of Military Banks of America, highlighted some of the unique challenges and key risk factors faced by military and veteran families, especially in regard to employment scams. A cumulative look of self-reported data in the Employment Scams Report between February 2016 and May 2020 shows that employment scams are even riskier than previously reported; 19.2% of military spouses and 16.6% of veterans encountering the scam reported a financial loss, compared with 15.5% for non-military consumers. And for every person that reported losing money, at least another worked without pay, and yet another lost personal information that could lead to identity theft.
While the largest financial losses were reported by military spouses ($1,825) and veterans ($1,905), even service members reported much higher median losses ($1,680) than non-military consumers ($1,000). This likely correlates with the 28% of survey respondents stating that they were looking for flexible, “gig” type employment opportunities when they encountered the fraudulent job.
The study showed that prevention and intervention methods can reduce the likelihood of a financial loss. Those who heard of employment scams and tactics prior to the encounter were significantly less likely to lose money, which reinforces the need to continue outreach about these risky scams. In addition, respondents reported that interventions by bank tellers and retail employees were very helpful in convincing them to walk away before losing money; 13% of survey respondents said an organization, company or agency employee tried to intervene and stop the scam – and 69% of the time, they were successful in their efforts.
As soldiers return to civilian life and re-enter the workforce, they face unique difficulties. Some veterans find challenges in applying for education benefits, navigating disability claims or searching for employment. Finding trustworthy sources is the best way to avoid scams. BBB recommends beginning with these organizations:
- BBB Military and Veteran Consumer Information. BBB Military and Veteran Consumer Information offers free consumer education and financial literacy resources for military families and veterans.
- U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (V.A.). VA.gov, the official website for the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, is a hub for materials on every aspect that may impact the transition to civilian life. Information on education benefits, pensions and life insurance can all be found on the Veterans Affairs official website.
- Veteran Employment Services Office (VESO). VESO offers career opportunity resources within the Department of Veterans Affairs, assisting in the transition from active duty to civilian life.
- USA Military Assistance. Like the V.A., USA Military Assistance provides guidance in a wide variety of areas. For those on active duty, military tax guidance and free credit monitoring can also be found at usa.gov/Military-Assistance
- Veterans Health Administration. An extension of the V.A., the Veterans Health Administration is a health care system specifically for veterans. The administration also offers resources for veterans during the COVID-19 crisis.
- Canadian Resources: Services and benefits for members of the Canadian Armed forces can be found here and Veterans Affairs Canada is a resource for those who have served in the Canadian Armed Forces or Royal Canadian Mounted Police.
For tips on how to avoid employment scams, visit BBB.org/EmploymentScams.
To read the Military Consumers and Marketplace Trust report, visit BBB.org/MilitaryReport.
To report a scam, go to BBB.org/ScamTracker.
For more information about BBB’s Military and Veterans Initiative and consumer resources, visit BBB.org/Military.