SCHRIEVER AIR FORCE BASE, Colo. --
Scams have been around since the dawn of civilization, and thanks to technology, they have grown in sophistication.
Staff Sgt. Kyle Maldonado, 50th Security Forces Squadron investigation section, warns that military members may be targeted as he’s seen an uptick recently.
“Military members are targeted for a variety of reasons,” Maldonado said. “For one thing, we have a steady paycheck which is lucrative to scammers. Additionally, we are trusted members of society, are always moving and may be unfamiliar with an area.”
Among the oldest scamming techniques are false phone calls.
Staff Sgt. Robert Cook, 50th Space Wing safety office occupational safety noncommissioned officer in charge, said callers pretending to offer gifts and prizes, or money of any sort are to be considered suspicious.
“If it seems odd, be very cautious,” Cook said. “If you can determine if the caller is a scammer, forward it to your local police department.”
Cook said the proactive approach towards preventing scam calls is to pay attention to the number of the person calling. Business numbers that start with “1-800” or area codes not from the United States or from a state one has no contacts in can often clue the caller is a potential scammer.
Additionally, Cook recommends call blocking software to stem the tide of potential scam callers.
The rise of online dating has led to military-centric scams that mislead others into thinking they are a real military member or civilian to try to solicit money, often referred to as lonely hearts schemes - schemes which use emotion and romance to lure victims.
According to the FBI, between 2012 and 2016 alone, online romance scams have tripled in frequency. The Federal Trade Commission’s official website warned in an article that “scammers might claim to be service members who can’t get into their accounts overseas or who need money fast. The first sign of a scam is an online love interest who asks for money.”
Cook said to investigate the supposed individual to see if they are who they claim to be.
“These scams are big, especially among younger Airmen,” he said. “It’s important to do your research.”
Maldonado said false emails are another scam to watch out for. Often, email scams ask for one’s personal information and come from unfamiliar addresses. They often try to lure a user into following a link or submitting their information.
He said this technique, known as phishing, has become a prominent threat in recent years.
“Phishing is just another way for cyber criminals to make a profit,” Maldonado said. “Often, they start with the lines ‘dear customer.’ They try to be a legitimate source but they’re not - think before you click and check the email’s security certificates. If it is a suspicious email, send it to your unit’s security manager.”
Other scams include Ponzi schemes, stolen valor, fake charities, faulty investments and more.
Despite how many scams exist, Maldonado said they all focus on one core technique – exploitation.
“They are all looking to use you – and they will almost always ask for money and or personally identifiable information,” he said.
“If it’s too good to be true, it probably is,” Cook added.
Maldonado said general guidelines to follow are to be cautious giving out credit card information, research before spending or investing and always take monetary opportunities with a grain of salt.
“Bottom line – be financially educated and self-reliant,” he said. “Use your head and be conservative with your money.”
Cook said although scams aren’t going away anytime soon, Airmen can always take the proactive approach and gain the upper hand over scammers.
“Be smart, take the right measures and if you are unsure, ask somebody,” he said. “If you do find yourself in a scam consult your leadership. It’s not OK what these people do and they need to be caught. The best way to do that is to protect yourself.”