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September/October 2019

Scamming VVA: How to Avoid Becoming a Victim

VVA members and their families have increasingly fallen victim to online financial scams. Always a problem, scams have become much more dangerous as scammers have become increasingly sophisticated and aggressive. Recognizing that seniors are a relatively naïve segment of the electronic universe, many scammers target them. These scammers can put VVA members and family members in a vulnerable financial position and at risk of major financial losses.

An increasing number of fraudulent social media pages and websites claim to be Vietnam Veterans of America. These pages often display the VVA logo, as well as our photos and YouTube videos in order to gain your confidence—all of it a ploy so they can sell goods, ask for donations, or request personal information. 

Examples of these scams include: Posting photos of cash with the VVA logo offering to help users make money; requesting bank account or debit card information in order to make a deposit or begin a donation—all the while claiming to be “making a difference” and asking viewers to help.

Beware of these ploys. VVA accepts donations via www.vva.org This is your safest way to make a donation. We will not send you offers to make money; nor will we attempt to collect your private information.

Here are some Do’s and Don’ts that will minimize your risk of becoming a target.

Top Financial Scams Targeting Seniors

Social Security Scams: Fraudulent telephone calls from scammers who claim to represent the Social Security Administration and threaten legal action or incarceration if information is not provided or payments not made. Scammers may even make the actual Social Security hotline appear on the recipient’s phone, 800-772-1213. SSA rarely contacts individuals by phone and never threatens arrest or legal action. If you receive a suspicious call, hang up immediately and report it to the SSA Office of the Inspector General at 800-269-0271.

Internal Revenue Service Scams: Beware of telephone calls from scammers claiming to represent the IRS and requesting payment for unpaid taxes or fees by using a prepaid debit card or gift card. The IRS does not contact taxpayers by email, text messages, or social media to request personal or financial information. Scammers use threats to intimidate victims into paying a fabricated tax bill. They may even threaten to arrest or deport would-be victims who don’t comply. The IRS can be reached at 800-829-1040.

Friend, Family, or Relative in Need of Help Scam: In this case, a person pretending to be a child, grandchild, associate, or family friend calls or emails asking for financial assistance. He or she may claim to be stranded, in an accident, or be in legal trouble and need money immediately. They will ask for a wire transfer, gift cards, or cash.

The FTC warns consumers not to impulsively send money. Instead, call the grandchildren or loved ones on their correct phone numbers and verify their whereabouts. Never mail cash. Be sure to file a complaint with the FTC.

Medicare/Health Insurance Scams: Since most older Americans qualify for Medicare, scammers will pose as Medicare agents to get personal information or offer bogus services. Don’t give your Medicare card, Medicare number, or Social Security number to anyone except your doctor, spouse, or trusted family member. To report issues, call 800-MEDICARE (800-633-4227).

Fake Social Media Pages: Scammers have built social media pages claiming to be reputable agencies or charities. These fake pages contain stolen logos, pictures, and videos, and they promote a good cause. They solicit money by asking for sensitive information, requesting your bank account or wire transfers, or ask you to engage in various frauds.

Scammers create fake accounts on Snapchat, Instagram, and Facebook, and post images of large amounts of cash with descriptions of how consumers can make money by sending a small investment or by providing their bank account number to help “flip money.” They claim this will benefit their charity. Never send your bank account information, debit card, or PIN to anyone on social media. Instead, go to an authentic website, such as www.vva.org to donate or inquire about helping a local charity.

Fake Checks and Fake Deposits: Some scammers may ask you to send money directly. However, in a some recent scams, the consumer is not asked to send money but to provide a debit card, account PIN, or bank account number. The scammer may then offer to deposit a check into the victim’s account with the promise of a percentage. These fake deposits and checks will bounce, resulting in the victim being overdrawn and responsible for any money they give to the scammer.

Also, “unexpected checks” can arrive via registered mail. If you receive a check you didn’t expect, call the sender directly to verify the check. Also, no company will ever overpay and ask you to deposit or wire the difference.

Sweepstakes and Lottery Scam: Scammers tell victims they have won a lottery or sweepstakes. The scammer will request taxes or fees and produce a check for the winnings. The check will later bounce. The scammer may ask for money up front with a promise of payment of the lottery once the fees are received. No lottery will ask for a fee or payment.

Foreign Email Scams The following are the most common types of foreign email scams: winning the lottery; phony inheritance; blackmail scams, pretending they have hacked your email; and job-posting scams. These emails will request personal information or payment in order to collect a prize or pay a bribe. These emails should be deleted, blocked, and ignored. Do not respond to them.

Phone Scams: These scammers pose as government agencies or travel, retail, or financial companies, calling with great news about prizes you’ve won. They can pose as charities or offer to provide services, insurance discounts, or home products. They may request your Social Security number or a phone payment. Hang up on all robocalls and register for the FTC “Do Not Call Registry.”

Romance Scams: Scammers can steal photos and information and pretend to be a good-looking, smart, potential partner. They will invest time and energy in developing a relationship. These scammers often claim to live in another part of the country, to be traveling on business, or on a military deployment. Then they will encounter an “emergency” and ask you to wire money quickly. The FTC has reported that older victims are targeted more often. Warning signs include photos that look like a model rather than an ordinary snapshot, promises to meet in person that never occur, and excessive attention.

The “Don’ts” of Avoiding a Scam

Don’t Disclose Personal Information to a Stranger: You should never give your Social Security number, bank account information, or debit card information to anyone you don’t know. Go to the actual website, such as www.vva.org, if you wish to donate money or receive information.

Don’t Pay Upfront for a Promise: If you are promised a prize, lottery money, or loan offer, never pay in advance. Scammers will likely take the money and disappear.

Don’t Deposit a Check and then Wire Money in Return: If a check you deposit turns out to be fraudulent, you are responsible for repaying the bank. A check could cash initially and bounce weeks later.

Don’t Make a Donation with Cash or by Gift Card or Wire Transfer: Credit cards and checks are safer. Most scammers use nontraditional payment methods.

Don’t Believe your Caller ID: Technology makes it easy for scammers to fake caller ID information, so the name and number you see aren’t always legitimate. If you receive a call asking for money or personal information, hang up. Confirm the caller’s information by checking online for the company’s information and then call them directly.

Don’t be Pressured or Rushed: Scammers may make threats or try to pressure you into making a decision. Take a step back, no matter how dire it may sound. Legitimate businesses and agencies won’t pressure or threaten you into an immediate decision.

The “Do’s” of Avoiding a Scam

Conduct your own Research Online: Go to your computer and research the charity, business, or phone number that called you. Pay attention to the actual website for trusted businesses.

Be Skeptical: If something sounds too good to be true, it usually is. If you are promised a huge payoff, inheritance, or easy money, then it is likely a scam. If a friend or family member contacts you via a social network or email asking for money, call to confirm the request.

Sign up for Free Scam Alerts: Go to www.ftc.gov/scams to get tips, advice, and scam alerts.

Talk to Someone: Ask a trusted friend or family member for advice. Most victims who get scammed are isolated and do not get second opinions from  trusted loved ones. Advice from a friend is greater than the advice of a stranger.

Contact Local Law Enforcement: If you believe you have been taken advantage of, call law enforcement and make a report. The U.S. Department of Justice: https://www.justice.gov/criminal-fraud/report-fraud

Amber Chaney was Deputy Director of Communications and Social Media for VVA.

VVA Active Pages

Here’s a list of VVA’s presence in electronic media. If you come across a site claiming to be VVA that isn’t on this list, be very wary. If you’re unsure, contact Mokie Porter at mporter@vva.org


Vietnam Veterans of America
The VVA Veteran
The Veterans Health Council


Vietnam Veterans of America
Faces of Agent Orange
The VVA Veteran
The Veterans Health Council
Pick Up Please Program


Vietnam Veterans of America
Faces of Agent Orange
Veterans Health Council
VVA Pick up Please Program


Vietnam Veterans of America
Faces of Agent Orange
Veterans Health Council
VVA Pick Up Please


VVA Pick Up Program





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