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CFO Jimmy Patronis: On Military Consumer Protection Day, Florida Must Protect Our Heroes from Fraud

TALLAHASSEE, Fla.—With more than 1.5 million veterans calling Florida home, Chief Financial Officer (CFO) Jimmy Patronis warns veterans and all military servicemembers on Military Consumer Protection Day of some of the top scams targeting this community, and reminds the military community to take advantage of the benefits they have earned through their service.
CFO Jimmy Patronis said, “Florida has the third largest population of veterans in the nation. Research shows veterans are twice as likely to be targeted for scams, and we must help raise awareness within Florida’s veterans and the entire military community. Empowering our heroes and their families to safeguard their finances helps protect those who protect us. Our military members, both past and present, should be aware of some of the top scams we see targeting this community.
“On top of helping veterans ward off scams, it’s important to note that approximately $500 million in veterans’ benefits go unclaimed in Florida. These are benefits that could make a major financial difference for our military community and their families. We must work together to bring awareness to the many benefits and resources they have rightfully earned through a life dedicated to serving our nation.”

1.      Benefits Buyout Offer—This scheme offers a quick lump-sum buyout for future disability or pension payments. Companies that offer this buyout often only end up paying a fraction of the veteran’s benefits over time. Veterans should think twice about entering such an agreement.

2.      Secret Benefits Scam—A caller says the veteran is missing out on money, but must pay a fee to claim it. Veterans benefits are available to claim at any time free of charge. Florida veterans should contact the Florida Department of Veterans’ Affairs (FDVA) for questions regarding unclaimed benefits.

3.      Phishing Scam—A caller claims to work for the federal government and asks veterans for Social Security Numbers and personal financial information to update military records. Active military and veterans should never give out personal information over the phone. Do not click on hyperlinks contained in emails from unknown individuals or businesses.

4.      Phony Employment Scam—Scammers are aware that past military experience appeals to many employers and use that to their advantage. Scam artists will collect personal information by advertising fake positions to steal someone's identity or may even charge a fee for locating a job that doesn’t exist. If a company or organization is mentioned in an ad or interview, contact that company directly to find out if they are hiring.

5.      Mortgage Relief Scam—Military homeowners looking for assistance with paying their mortgage should be cautious of this type of scam. Some mortgage relief companies will try to convince servicemembers and veterans to pay a fee in exchange for a loan modification or to stop foreclosure. It’s against the law for mortgage relief companies to charge any money until you have been given a written offer from your lender and you have accepted it. If you’re struggling to make you mortgage payment, there are legitimate programs that can help.
6.      Pension Scam—Veterans 65 and over are targeted by financial advisers persuading them to transfer pensions into a special trust and charge excessive fees. The advisers claim to help veterans qualify for Aid and Attendance benefits, but may cause them to lose eligibility for Medicaid or access to their pension.

7.      Credit Repair Scam—Scam artists claim to improve your credit score, remove bankruptcies, judgments and liens, and repair your credit. Under federal law, credit repair companies cannot require you to pay any fees until they have completed the service they promised. Financial counselors on your military installation can help review your credit report free of charge and dispute errors on the report. Active military servicemembers should also consider freezing their credit before deploying. As of July 1, 2018, credit reporting agencies can no longer charge a fee to freeze your credit.
CFO Patronis’ office works diligently through the  Financial Frontlines program program to ensure Florida’s military community has access to the benefits and services they have earned. One way to ensure benefits are received is to update all personal information so that family members receive benefits they qualify for as well. The FDVA’s Benefits and Services page provides servicemembers, veterans and loved ones with information and resources that are available.

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