• Published
  • By Senior Airman Mary Thach
  • 155th Air Refueling Wing
LINCOLN, Neb. - Nebraska's Attorney General, Jon Bruning, visited the Nebraska National Guard air base in Lincoln, Neb., July 17, for Military Consumer Protection Day, to brief Soldiers, Airmen and their families about scams targeting the military community and how to avoid being a victim of fraud and how to get help if already victimized.
   The Consumer Protection Division informs and educates service members about deceptive business and trade practices, scams, mortgage and lending problems and identity theft, to name a few.
   Bruning said military members and their families are vulnerable to fraudulent activity because of frequent travel, being away from home for extended periods of time and facing fears that the general public might not encounter.
   The Nebraska military force employs more than 14,000 active, guard and reserve members and 141,000 veterans. These numbers and the trusting spirit of Nebraskan's can be a red-flag for scam artists to take advantage and make some easy money because of a military family's unique circumstances, said Bruning.
   "Scammers know you make a healthy wage with regular paychecks," said Bruning. "Unfortunately, while you are working to protect us, scammers are looking for ways to make a quick buck."
   Bruning said to be skeptical if people offer inexpensive or free travel, specialized life insurance policies and financial planning services. Do not be afraid to ask neighbors, family, friends, a banker or a trusted advisor if doubts arise about an offer or business, there are no freebies.
   In addition to faulty business practices, the military's number one reported complaint in 2012, was identity theft. Thirty-seven percent of all military consumer complaints were identity theft and the number will continue to grow if people are not educated on how to protect themselves, said Bruning.
   During the brief, Bruning explained, if you receive an email, letter or phone call from an individual claiming to be a financial institution which the member belongs, be cynical. If they ask for information they should already have on file such as your birth date, account number, credit card number, pin number or three-digit security code, this is not your bank or credit card company. This is a scam.
   If a financial institution is asking for personally identifiable information that should already be on record, hang up and call the institution back using the phone number that is trusted or go to the physical location to confirm that they contacted you to inquire about your personal information.
   Bruning said, in 2012, Nebraska's Consumer Protection recovered $3.7 million, and on average recovers more than $1 million annually since 2003. During 2012, the Consumer Protection office fielded more than 8,000 complaints. Of those complaints, they opened 3,500 of cases and closed 3,455.
   "We want to arm you with the tools you need to protect you and your families from scammers," said Bruning. "Over the years, we have seen scams come and go. But one thing remains the same, if something sounds too good to be true, it probably is."