While all consumers can be misled by deceptive advertising, military veterans may be especially vulnerable. Many are older and often receive military retirement benefits, making them tempting targets.
In an effort to protect veterans, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) has used its authority under the Consumer Financial Protection Act to permanently bar RMK Financial for what it called "repeat offenses against vets and their families."
In shutting down the company's mortgage loan operations, the CFPB charged it with tricking military families about the government’s role in sending the advertisements or providing the loans, hoodwinking borrowers about interest rates and key terms, falsely misrepresenting loan requirements, and deceiving prospective borrowers about projected savings from refinancing.
The CFPB warned the company about its practices back in 2015 but said the company failed to change its ways.
The Bureau says those Camp Lejeune ads were misleading, too
In an additional warning to veterans, the CFPB is also calling attention to “coaches” or “consultants” who advertise their ability to assist vets with their VA benefits claim but may not be accredited to actually practice before the VA – marketing that the Bureau called “predatory.”
“We have heard reports that unscrupulous actors have misled some veterans into paying hundreds of thousands of dollars in illegal fees,” the Bureau said. “There have also been advertisements and commercials aimed at Veterans who were stationed at Camp Lejeune seeking to represent them in litigation related to the PACT Act,” which also requires any attorney seeking benefits on behalf of a veteran directly from the VA under the Camp Lejeune Justice Act of 2022 (CLJA) must still be accredited by the VA.
The biggest scams veterans face in 2023
Two problems are bad. Seven are really bad. According to new research from Aura, military veterans face seven different schemes to swindle them out of their well-earned benefits. Those include:
Investment and military pension fraud
Offering “secret” government funding
Demanding security deposits on veteran-discounted properties
Posing as veteran-friendly employers and schools
Imposters pretending to be friends
Phishing scams from fake government agencies
Charging for free military records
“Being the victim of a scam is traumatic, leaving vets or their families feeling vulnerable and even helpless. But you can fight back and protect yourself by watching for signs of scams and acting quickly,” NextAvenue’s Rachel Leland says.
In her homework on what things veterans can do to protect themselves, she found two that can essentially keep them safe: Be aware of the prevalence of scams, and be leery of anyone who claims to be a “vet” and claims to represent veterans.
To help vets monitor those, AARP has created Operation Protect Veterans, a joint program of AARP's Fraud Watch Network and the U.S. Postal Inspection Service (USPIS). The initiative provides free resources and community programs which give vets tips on how to proactively spot scams and find fraud specialists if a vet has been targeted.