Since the first unofficial Memorial Day in April 1865, the holiday has held a special place in the hearts of military veterans, active-duty service members and the general public. Originally known as Decoration Day until the early 1900s, Americans celebrated Memorial Day by decorating the tombs and graves of soldiers who had fallen in battle during the American Civil War. After World War I, Memorial Day was expanded to recognize the sacrifices of all military members who had died in any American war.
Today, Memorial Day is often associated with an opportunity for families to get together for barbecues and weekend trips due to the extended weekend the holiday provides. For many Americans, Memorial Day marks the unofficial start of summer and is spent enjoying the sun and warm weather after the rainy spring season. Companies and businesses across the nation take this opportunity to reflect on the sacrifices of military personnel and their families, often offering discounts or deals that target members of the U.S. armed forces with patriotic messaging.
Unfortunately, scammers also take advantage of this time of the year by targeting the same audience, using a patriotic or military approach to appeal to potential victims. To protect America’s service members, BBB Military Line focuses on financial literacy training, fraud alerts and scam prevention tips for active-duty personnel, veterans and their families.
A few common scams that target military members include:
• High-priced military loans
• Veterans’ benefits buyout plans
• Fake rental properties
• Misleading car sales
• Expensive life insurance policies
According to reports submitted to BBB Scam Tracker in 2021, active-duty service members lost nearly $330,000 to scammers across the United States, a more than 70% increase in monetary losses as compared to 2020. Veterans across the nation were impacted to an even greater degree, with over $2 million lost to fraudulent business practices, an astounding 640% increase in losses compared to 2020. While most of the money was lost to online purchase scams, employment and phishing scams were also prevalent. Additionally, 50% of scam victims were over the age of 55.
Victim category Number of BBB Scam Tracker reports Monetary value lost Average lost per report including monetary loss Top three scams Active-Duty Personnel 353 $328,653 $1,536 1. Online Purchase 2. Phishing 3. Counterfeit Product Veterans 3,142 $2,089,387 $1,558 1. Online Purchase 2. Phishing 3. Employment Military Spouses 1,098 $414,948 $879 1. Online Purchase 2. Phishing 3. Sweepstakes/Lottery Source: BBB Scam Tracker
To avoid scams targeting military members and the general public this Memorial Day, BBB recommends consumers follow these guidelines:
• Do your research. The first line of defense is often the strongest. Spend the time to research a company before purchasing their services or goods. Review business profiles on BBB.org and check government websites if the service is required to be licensed, such as interstate moving companies or companies using pesticides.
• Avoid aggressive selling tactics. Companies and businesses that pressure consumers to immediately contract their services without allowing time to obtain quotes or estimates from competitors should be handled cautiously. While it is necessary for companies to follow up with potential customers and clients, overly aggressive selling tactics may signify that the company is not invested in the consumer's interests.
• Beware emotional appeals. Exercise care when engaging with businesses that use targeted emotional reactions to entice donations or contributions from consumers. Donators can use BBB's Wise Giving Alliance to find a list of accredited charities on Give.org.
• Never wire money to strangers. Money that is sent via wire transfer is extremely difficult to track and nearly impossible to be reimbursed. BBB recommends using a credit card for online purchases and donations whenever possible. Charges on credit cards are easier to dispute and be refunded when engaging with a business that does not provide the purchased service or good.
Visit BBB Military Line for more tips and resources to protect military service members from engaging with fraudulent businesses on BBB.org.
The FTC provides resources focused on military consumer protection on FTC.gov.
Military service members who have been victims of a scam are encouraged to report it to BBB Scam Tracker. Information provided may prevent another person from falling victim. Additional graphics: ABOUT BBB: The Better Business Bureau has empowered people to find businesses, brands and charities they can trust for over 110 years. In 2021, people turned to BBB more than 200 million times for BBB Business Profiles on 6.3 million businesses and Charity Reports on 25,000 charities, free at BBB.org. Local, independent BBBs can be found across the United States, Canada, and Mexico, including BBB serving the Heart of Texas, which was founded in 1950 and serves 105 counties across Texas.