red button with word Scam Alert beside it While there are programs run by the VA to helpveterans avoid getting taken advantage of, the GAO says it's notdoing enough. (Photo: Shutterstock)

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You'd think that leaving a battle zone would eliminate thetarget on a GI's back—but you'd be wrong.

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Especially if said GI came home with federal benefits.

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A report in Greenville Online details some of the financialschemes that target veterans and military retirees, preying ontheir assets—government benefits, pensions, disability payments,etc.—and using their weaknesses—lack of financial sophistication,even PTSD—to do it.

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The report cites a Government Accountability Office reporthighlighting a problem that many servicemembers may be unaware of:veterans with disabilities are often easy prey for financial fraudsters, who see those lifetimeincome streams guaranteed by the government and home in on the vetswho receive them.

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Never mind that it's against the law—both state and federal.

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Never mind that these vets have incurred those disabilities byserving their country.

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And never mind that some of those disabilities might make iteasier for a vet to fall prey to financial schemes by impairingtheir ability to manage their finances.

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Nope, to financial fraudsters vets are quarry, and they huntthem as eagerly as a bear might go after a run of salmon. They'rekin to the payday loan centers, pawnshops and other high-cost"services" that lurk outside every military base.

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Whether it's a "loan" against future benefits, with sky-highinterest rates that only drive the vet deeper into debt, or a"purchase" of future benefits by payment of a lump sum up front(accompanied by high fees for the "service"), financial fraudsters'schemes are illegal and take advantage of veterans who are in atough spot financially.

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And there are vet victims on the other end of the scheme, too,with the "investors" in the lump sum payouts often having servedtheir country as well—but get suckered in to such illegal schemesnonetheless.

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While there are programs run by the VA to help veterans avoidgetting taken advantage of, the GAO report said it's not doingenough.

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Specifically, says the report, the scams that con vets intoselling their benefits for cash. It quotes the GAO: "VA does notcentrally collect and analyze information, such as complaints madeagainst companies, that could show the prevalence of these scams,help VA target outreach to veterans, and help law enforcement goafter scammers."

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And it's not just the schemers who rip off vets outright by"buying" their benefits or advancing them cash against them. Thereport also cites the Better Business Bureau saying that"[v]eterans also are susceptible to unscrupulous car dealers,online retailers, collection agencies and even furniturestores…"

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If it seems too good to be true, it probably is.

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And if there's any doubt, vets should go to the VA for theservices it does offer—call centers where they can report scams,lawyers who can help them file claims for benefits and a programthat will connect vets with individuals or organizations who canhelp them manage their benefits.

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Marlene Satter

Marlene Y. Satter has worked in and written about the financial industry for decades.