Did you know that July is designated as Military Consumer Month? According to the U.S. Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, Military Consumer Month is an annual observance to increase awareness of consumer protections and financial readiness for servicemembers, veterans, and military families.
Sadly, military families make numerous sacrifices for our country, but as a result of their service, they often face some unique financial challenges. The 2021 BBB Scam Tracker Risk Report showed that the number of active-duty military exposed to a scam was nearly identical to the percentage of the general population reporting monetary loss, but the susceptibility of active-duty military was about 42% higher than that of the overall population.
Also, according to the 2021 Online Shopping Scam Report, more than 10% of online purchase scams reported to BBB Scam Tracker came from the military community. Active-duty military (78.3%) and military spouses (75.2%) were more likely to report losing money to these scam types than non-military consumers. More concerning, though, is that the median dollar loss for all military consumers—active duty ($178), military spouses ($119), and veterans ($139)—is higher than non-military consumers ($100).
The good news is that there are simple steps military members and their families can take to help reduce the risk of online shopping scams:
- If it looks too good to be true, it probably is. Don’t shop on price alone. Searching for a low price is the number one reason people reported losing money. Many scammers offer deals that seem too good to pass up; however, they may end up losing money to a counterfeit product or may not even get the product at all.
- Beware of phony sellers. Double-check to make sure the website of the seller is safe. Check the URL for errors/misspellings, and never click on a link that looks suspicious. Does the website have accessible contact information? Read online reviews about the company or website and see what others say.
- Don’t pay with gift cards! If someone asks you to pay for something with a gift card, like a Google Play or iTunes card, it’s a scam. No real business or government agency will ever insist you pay them with a gift card. Anyone who demands to be paid with a gift card is a scammer.
- Know the seller. If the seller or website seems sketchy, it is wise to avoid it. Instead, buy directly from the source (brand, manufacturer, team, etc.) or through an established shop or authorized reseller.
- Protect yourself. When buying or selling on a site that offers protection to buyers and sellers, take advantage of that protection. If a buyer or seller tries to persuade you to go outside the site’s usual process or payment methods, that’s a big red flag.
To learn more about Military Consumer Protection Month, visit BBB.org/Military or www.militaryconsumer.gov. If you see a scam, report it to BBB.org/ScamTracker. Whether you’ve lost money or not, your story could help others avoid a scam.