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‘Step in right direction’: Bill targets those who scam veterans

Updated July 26, 2023 - 10:07 pm

Scammers are targeting veterans under the guise of getting them to donate to help injured veterans or the homeless.

Last year, more than 150,000 reports of fraud targeting veterans were filed in the U.S., with a median loss of $750.

A federal bill introduced Wednesday hopes to address that.

Democratic Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto of Nevada, alongside Republican Sen. Ted Budd of North Carolina, introduced the Veterans Protection from Fraud Act, which would increase penalties to up to 10 years in prison for fraud targeting a veteran, including mail fraud, general fraudulent schemes and more.

“What I have seen and what I have heard in Nevada, and what I know as a former (attorney general), veterans, unfortunately, are some of the individuals that are the highest target for scammers,” Cortez Masto told the Las Vegas Review-Journal on Wednesday. “And so over the years that has been increasing.”

Nevada had the third highest rate of fraud per capita in the U.S. in 2022 with more than 44,000 reports that cost a total of about $108 million, with a median loss of $800, according to the Consumer Sentinel Network’s Data Book.

Ross Bryant, executive director of UNLV’s Military & Veteran Services Center and a retired Army veteran, has seen a trend of scammers targeting older veterans by presenting themselves as fellow veterans to persuade them to donate to a cause, such as helping the homeless or wounded veterans.

“It’s more like a sympathy kind of ploy,” he said.

Bryant warns veterans about potential scammers and urges them to look up the organization online to verify it is real. They also can check with the Nevada Department of Veterans Services to make sure the organization asking for money is legit, he said.

Veterans should be wary of someone who asks for money right away or otherwise puts pressure on them, Bryant said.

“They’re very convincing,” he said of scammers, “but you have to do your due diligence to find out what is this and why do I need to send money?”

Bryant thinks Cortez Masto’s legislation will help by holding scammers accountable and also raising awareness of the issue to better inform veterans of potential scams.

“I don’t think it will solve everything, but it’s a step in the right direction, you know?” Bryant said.

Similar legislation was introduced in the House. The next step is to get the legislation before the Senate Judiciary, have hearings on the bills in both the House and the Senate, and get them to the president’s desk for his signature, Cortez Masto said.

Contact Jessica Hill at jehill@reviewjournal.com. Follow @jess_hillyeah on Twitter.

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