Officials from Operation Protect Veterans — a joint effort from the U.S. Postal Inspection Service and AARP that works on scams targeting veterans and military members — said they have seen a recent uptick in the number of illicit offers for veterans to “cut in the vaccination line,” if they provide cash to third-party groups.
Military Times’ recent article entitled “Warning: Post Office sees rise in COVID vaccination scams targeting veterans” says that the group also warned of scammers offering “cash payments or other incentives around obtaining a COVID vaccination.”
VA officials will reimburse veterans for the cost of vaccines by the department’s Foreign Medical Program. However, they do not help them find vaccine appointments.
Legislation approved last month by Congress allows all veterans, their spouses and caregivers to get coronavirus vaccines through the Department of Veterans Affairs free of cost. The timing and availability of those shots depends on local supplies.
However, VA officials have stressed the fact that people do not need to pay to receive a dose. Any outside group promising quicker delivery in exchange for cash are taking advantage of confused or frustrated veterans.
“In addition to many of the same scams that fraudsters use to target veterans, we’re now seeing more ‘timely’ scams, like those related to COVID,” said Chief Postal Inspector Gary Barksdale in a statement.
“And as May is Military Appreciation Month, it’s a great time for everyone to become informed and spread the word about scams targeting veterans in order to, in some small way, help repay the tremendous debt we all owe those who have served.”
An AARP survey from 2017 found that vets are twice as likely to be victims of scammers as the general public. The survey found that one in six veterans reported losing money to a bogus offer of benefits or assistance.
The U.S. Postal Service cautions vets not to divulge their personal information over the phone to strangers, especially bank account numbers, credit card numbers or Social Security numbers.
Moreover, they also said any veteran with questions about an unsolicited offer or program should check out the deal with a family member, friend, or local Veterans Affairs office.
Anyone who demands veterans act immediately on such a transaction are like scammers.
More information on scams and protections for vets is available at the Postal Inspection Service web site.
Reference: Military Times (April 30, 2021) “Warning: Post Office sees rise in COVID vaccination scams targeting veterans”