Monday, Nov. 11, is Veterans Day. Unfortunately, it’s also a reminder, and a warning to all veterans — especially senior vets — that they’re ongoing targets for fraud because of their service or benefits.

Our area is a fertile ground for senior scams. Over 40% of Charlotte and Sarasota County’s residents are 65-plus. And almost a quarter of them are vets. That equates to some 17,000 senior vets in Charlotte County and 32,000 in Sarasota County, according to the most recent Census figures.

The Federal Trade Commission reports total fraud losses by all military consumers in 2018 was $80 million. That’s almost twice that in 2017. Most cons employ imposter scams, and the overwhelming majority of victims are veterans.

“Fraudsters come at ex-service members from many angles, employing vet-focused twists on identity theft, phishing, imposter scams, and investment and loan deceptions,” warns AARP. ”The goal is often to manipulate or gain access to benefits the government provides to those who served.”

Like bogus calls from the “Veterans Administration” requesting updated personal identifying information leading to identity theft.

Or bogus offers to refinance a VA loan. Or illegally charging a fee to file a VA claim or applying for “unclaimed benefits.”

Or charging for military records. They’re free from the U.S. National Archives and Records Administration (www.archives.gov/veterans/866-272-6272).

Or schemes taking advantage of veterans in need by offering disadvantageous upfront buyouts in exchange for signing over future disability or pension benefits.

For straight-forward help connecting vets to all earned benefits and services, talk with an accredited Veteran Service Officer in Charlotte County at 941-764-5579 or Sarasota County at 941-861-8387.

Crooks also pose as veterans as well as advertise in military-targeted publications.

“To a savvy con-artist, stolen valor can be an extremely effective tool,” warns AARP. “They specifically target vets with false claims of military service brotherhood. They know patriotism among vets can be a powerful window into their hearts and wallets.”

Then there are charitable donation requests from many fraudulent organizations.

“Often they use names that sound like well-known charities or include words like veteran, operation, hero, wounded, disabled, or homeless,” warns the FTC. “Just because those words are in the organization’s name doesn’t mean it actually helps veterans.”

Take the American Veterans Foundation. In March, the FTC and the Florida Attorney General announced the shutdown of this Sarasota-based “sham charity.” AVF falsely told donors that their contributions would be used to send care packages to deployed military service members, and support homeless veterans. Instead, 92% of its $6.5 million in collections went to telemarketers and other private-interest costs.

So, before giving to any veteran-related charity, vet them at www.charitynavigator.org and www.charitywatch.org, paying close attention to the percentage of donations going to fundraising.

Now, on to some well-deserved perks.

Many companies recognize active military and veterans with special discounts. These aren’t entitlements, but commendable voluntary business decisions. To qualify, vets usually need some form of ID: Like their DD Form 214 discharge document, a driver’s license with a veteran designation, a VA health care card, or the national Veterans Identification Card (VIC). (To apply for a free VIC online, go to

https://www.va.gov/records/get-veteran-id-cards/vic)

Some perks vets and current military members enjoy year-round include plan discounts offered by most cellular carriers. Allegiant Air provides free checked and carry-on baggage as well as free seats.

On Veterans Day itself, Publix is giving veterans a 10% discount on all groceries. Great Clips is offering a free haircut or coupon to use at a later date.

And many national restaurant chains — including Beef ‘O’ Brady’s, Bob Evans, Chili’s, Cracker Barrel, Denny’s, IHOP, Little Caesars, Red Lobster, and Starbucks — are giving vets free selected food items on Veterans Day. There’s also Golden Corral’s 19th annual free military appreciation dinner in Punta Gorda. Call locations to verify details. Find other Veterans Day “Meals & Deals” at www.militarywallet.com.

As a proud Navy dad, thanks to all who served and are serving.

David Morris is the Sun’s consumer advocate. Contact him c/o the Sun, 23170 Harborview Road, Charlotte Harbor, FL 33980; email david.morris@yoursun.com; or leave a message at 941-206-1114.

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