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Preying on Patriots: The Growing Threat of Scams Against Veterans

Preying on Patriots

With scams targeting Veterans seeking benefits becoming a serious nationwide problem, Federal law enforcement officials are working tirelessly to shed light on the complexities of these cases while providing crucial advice for Veterans.

"We're seeing scams reported by people of all ages, backgrounds, and locations," said Steven Houston, a captain with VA Nebraska Western Iowa Health Care System Police Services. "These scammers will try just about anything, from impersonation to pressure tactics, to get their hands on personal data or money." 

Houston has overseen numerous multi-state investigations over his career, uncovering sophisticated networks preying on veterans' trust. However, he acknowledged challenges in building cases.  

"Proving fraud takes time and cooperation across agencies,” Houston said. “Many scammers think they can get away with just a few victims, but we're working hard to find and prosecute everyone." Zachary Chentland, VANWIHCS Acting Chief of Police, said scams often impact more than single Veterans. Their impact, he said, often affects entire communities.  

It’s something Chentland has seen firsthand. "Just last year, we had two local cases and one in a neighboring city of people falsely claiming to be from the VA. All they wanted was money," Chentland recalled. 

"No legitimate organization is going to contact Veterans out of the blue asking for sensitive records or payments without verifying who they are," Chentland said. However, he understands why scammers' tactics can be convincing.  

"They prey on people's trust in the VA and desire to get benefits help,” he said. “Veterans need to remember to always check credentials first before sharing anything." The most common scams reportedly involve people impersonating VA employees and offering to expedite or increase benefits for a fee. 

Chentland warned that this should immediately raise red flags, as the application process is always free. No one from the VA will ask for cash or make unsolicited guarantees, he added. Both VA Police officials agreed that the best prevention is education.  

"We want Veterans and their families to be empowered with knowledge about the real VA process versus scammer tactics," Houston said. To that end, they offer crucial advice: "Always verify credentials with a photo ID. No legitimate organization will be offended by properly identifying themselves," Chentland said. Houston also stressed taking one's time with major financial decisions.  

With open lines of communication and an informed public, officials hope to curb the ongoing Veteran fraud epidemic.