Veterans Day is still some weeks away, but we felt it was timely to remind all our Blog readers and radio listeners – and especially you veterans who have served your country so faithfully – that there are unscrupulous and shameless scam artists out there trying to defraud you from your savings, your security, even your identity. Here at AgingOptions we frequently hear from clients and radio listeners asking us about some enticing new offer, investment or scheme they’ve received in the mail or read about online. Seniors are considered to be especially vulnerable to fraud, since as a group seniors tend to be more trusting, more polite, more willing to listen to appeals over the phone, and more inclined to read offers that come in the mail. Financial fraud against seniors is a national epidemic.
Now there’s a new type of con, targeting not just seniors, but aging veterans – and as with any such criminal enterprise, senior vets and those who care for them have to be careful. These “too good to be true” scams may always be lurking inside the next phone call or direct mail solicitation, and the fact that they’re designed to steal hard-earned pension funds from veterans in need makes these frauds particularly insidious.
We found a story, reported last year on the Blog website of the AARP but still extremely current, warning readers of some of the newer scams being perpetrated on those who have served in the military. There are several of these scams cropping up from time to time. In our research we also found information on this topic on a website called www.stopfraud.gov, which is maintained by the federal government’s Financial Fraud Enforcement Task Force. This site lists a wide range of frauds and scams, including several targeted specifically at veterans: charity scams, phony credit monitoring services, payday loan and cash advance scams, and scams design to cheat vets out of their hard-earned pensions. This website provides links to resources available to assist you. It really is a wealth of helpful information if you feel a friend or loved one is being victimized.
The AARP article on fraud against veterans focuses primarily on one of the more common veteran scams, which the government website calls the Pension Scam. An unscrupulous financial planner or attorney will contact an aging veteran and offer to replace the vet’s future pension earnings with a lump-sum payout amount. To some vets, especially those who are financially strapped, this offer sounds tempting – after all, why not take the cash now instead of seeing it come in slowly, month after month? To sweeten the pot, the offer generally promises access to other benefits for which the vet may not otherwise qualify.
Here’s how the government website www.stopfraud.gov describes the Pension Scam: “Unfortunately, veterans and their families are targets for some dishonest advisers who claim to offer free help with paperwork for pensions. In short, the scheme can involve attorneys, financial planners, and insurance agents trying to persuade veterans over 65 to make decisions about their pensions without giving them the whole truth about the long-term consequences. The unscrupulous brokers claim to help veterans qualify for Aid and Attendance benefits, but in fact may cause them to lose eligibility for Medicaid services or cut off victims from their money for a long time.”
The AARP article explains in more detail about how the promise of these extra benefits seldom comes true. Instead the vet is left in much worse financial shape than when the so-called financial advisers launched their scheme. According to the Federal Trade Commission, quoted by the AARP, “These so-called advisers may claim to be veterans to gain your trust, and they appeal to your emotions to create anxiety and apprehension about your future. As a rule, they leave out important details.” Tragically, says the FTC, “if you follow their advice, you’re likely to end up without the supplemental pension benefits they promise, disqualified from other government benefits, and stuck in a financial investment that’s not in your or your family’s best interest for the long term.”
So our advice for veterans and their loved ones – and for all seniors – is to be extremely cautious and skeptical about any financial scheme that targets your pension or your retirement savings. Before you act, always seek good advice from a trusted source. Here at AgingOptions we will gladly be that source for you: not only are we extremely familiar with Medicare, Medicaid and VA programs, but we can also refer you to trusted financial advisers who will help you evaluate any course of action that could put your future in jeopardy.
Remember, too, that our services cover far more than your finances: our retirement planning strategy provides you with the most comprehensive type of planning we’ve ever found. We call it LifePlanning, and once you discover the power of a LifePlan, you’ll think about retirement in a whole new way. Your LifePlan will help you ensure your financial security, but it also does much more. Financial planning alone cannot prepare you adequately for your retirement years – in fact, this type of one-dimensional “planning” can be a recipe for disaster, because it ignores so many of the other critical facets of retirement! In addition to giving you a financial blueprint, a LifePlan also helps you decide which housing options are best for you. It ensures that your legal affairs are in order and your medical needs will be thoroughly met. Your LifePlan even helps you communicate with your family so that they understand and will comply with your wishes.
Why not take the next step and find out if this comprehensive approach to retirement planning is right for you? Attend one of our free LifePlanning Seminars, held at locations throughout the area. For our current listing of upcoming seminars, click here, then register online, or contact our office during the week and we’ll be glad to assist you. It will be our pleasure to meet you at a LifePlanning Seminar soon!
(originally reported at http://blog.aarp.org)