Washington, D.C.—Fraud complaints filed by veterans have grown substantially in recent years, increasing by 63 percent between 2012 and 2017 according to a 2017 AARP study. Although veterans make up about 8 percent of the population, one-third of the victims of investment fraud identified by a 2016 AARP study were veterans.
To raise awareness about the disproportionate number of scams targeting veterans, U.S. Senators Susan Collins (R-ME) and Bob Casey (D-PA), the Chairman and Ranking Member of the Aging Committee, convened a hearing today titled, “Veterans Scams: Protecting Those Who Protected Us.” Senators Collins and Casey also led a letter to VA Secretary Robert Wilkie signed by nearly every member of the Aging Committee urging the Department to alert veterans to the risk of scams and seeking information on steps the VA has already taken to protect veterans.
“As Veterans Day approaches, we remember all who served by not just honoring their service through our words, but also by the actions that we take,” said Senator Collins. “One issue that calls for our immediate action is to fight a newer enemy facing our veterans -- relentless criminals who seek to rob them of their life savings and defraud them of the benefits they have earned in service to our country. Veterans and their families have a right to expect that the nation they served will fight to protect them.”
“Veterans Day, which is right around the corner, is a day to honor those who served our country and it is a reminder of our responsibility to serve veterans in return,” said Senator Casey. “It is unconscionable to me that someone would stoop so low as to steal money from someone who has sacrificed so much for our country. We must fight back against unscrupulous con artists by ensuring that not one more veteran loses one more penny to a scam. I urge the VA to do more to combat scams against veterans.”
The Committee heard from Ben Wells, a young Air Force veteran who befriended a Korean War veteran and his wife in their 80s through a program called Vet to Vet Maine. Mr. Wells shared how he prevented two con artists from attempting to prey on the couple by advertising fake free in-home care services.
Regrettably, studies show that veterans are more likely to lose money when they are the targets of scams. That was the experience of LaVerne Foreman, an 82-year-old Air Force and Army veteran from Pennsylvania, who told the Committee about how he was scammed into donating to a fraudulent charity called the “Disabled and Paralyzed Veterans Foundation.” The US Postal Inspection Service investigated, and DOJ is planning to prosecute the case.
Today’s hearing also examined efforts to stop veterans scams, including the importance of aggressively prosecuting perpetrators of these scams and public education and outreach to help veterans and their families identify scams.
Dewayne Richardson, a Mississippi District Attorney, discussed his efforts to locate and prosecute a woman who scammed 78 veterans out of more than $2 million in assets through a fraudulent investment company called “Veterans’ Pension Planners of America.” Thanks to Mr. Richardson’s tireless efforts, this criminal is now serving three years in prison.
Additionally, the Committee was informed by Carroll Harris, the Acting Inspector in Charge of the U.S. Postal Inspection Service, about his agency’s partnership with the AARP to raise awareness about scams targeting veterans through a campaign called “Operation Protect Veterans” and USPIS’s efforts to investigate these scams.
Click HERE to read the witnesses’ testimonies.
The Committee also delved into the recommendations of an October 2019 Government Accountability Office report on financial exploitation of veterans.
Today marked the 24th hearing the Aging Committee has held in the past seven years to examine scams affecting older Americans.