Attorney General Andy Beshear joined with AARP Kentucky and partners to launch “Mission Veterans Protected” to help reverse the high rate of veterans, active-duty service members, reservists and military families from being targeted and falling victim to scams.
“Mission Veterans Protected,” part of Beshear’s Scam Alerts initiative, provides preventative resources to help Kentucky’s veteran community combat the findings in a recent AARP study that determined more veterans are targeted by con artists and fall victim to fraud when compared to nonveterans.
Nearly eight in 10 veterans in the study reported receiving a scam attempt in the last five years that tried to take advantage of their military service, and nearly 16 percent of veterans report losing money to scams, compared to 8 percent of nonveterans.
“We value our veterans and launched ‘Mission Veterans Protected’ to fight back against despicable scammers who deliberately target those who have sacrificed so much for our county,” Beshear said. “I thank AARP of Kentucky and all our coalition partners for joining us on this mission to protect the more than 345,000 Kentucky veterans, active-duty service members and reservists and their families.”
Beshear said the initiative is to protect Kentuckians like Donna Herndon, of Murray, who is a senior widow of a Vietnam Veteran. After her husband, Woody, passed away last summer, scammers posing as the United States Veterans Administration and as local funeral home staff contacted her in order to steal her survivor benefits.
“I decided as a tribute to my sweetheart’s memory, I would share my story to help others avoid these devious, despicable con artists and the potentially ruinous consequences if they succeed,” she said. “Attorney General Beshear contacted me as soon as he heard what had happened to me and offered his help. These relentless scammers have no shame, no conscience. I support and applaud the launch of this collaborative effort to protect veterans and their families.”
AARP Kentucky State President Charlotte Whittaker said AARP’s Operation Protect Veterans is excited to work with the Attorney General Beshear again to help protect Kentucky’s veterans and their families from scammers.
“Unfortunately, the men and women who bravely served our country have become a prime target of telephone and internet thieves,” Whittaker said. “While veterans are bombarded by the same scam pitches we all receive, AARP Fraud Watch Network research found that they’re also under special attack by a number of additional scams tailored just for them.”
Beshear’s office and AARP Kentucky are working with a coalition of more than 30 partners to conduct a more than 25-stop statewide outreach campaign to talk directly to veterans and military families about scam prevention. When veterans and military families need immediate assistance in identifying and avoiding scams they can visit the mission’s website.
The website provides critical information on how to identify the 10 most common veteran-specific scams; tips on how to avoid falling victim to scammers; who to call for help; a list of upcoming communityevents and a printable awareness poster.
Beshear and Whittaker joined veterans, military-family advocates and partners at the Epilepsy Foundation of Kentuckiana in Louisville and the American Legion Post 313 in Lexington today to announcement the initiative.
The Epilepsy Foundation of Kentuckiana’s Operation Outreach helps veterans and their families navigate the difficulties and challenges of living with post-traumatic epilepsy, post-traumatic stress and seizures.
“Kentucky’s veterans with post-traumatic epilepsy and psychogenic non-epileptic seizures are already vulnerable due to their potentially disabling and life threatening condition,” said Deb McGrath, executive director for the foundation. “For veterans to innocently fall prey to someone trying to take advantage of them through scams or fraudulent activity is criminal. The Epilepsy Foundation of Kentuckiana is supportive of Mission Veterans Protected, which provides a layer of support and protection to veterans and their families.”
John Lingenfelter, a commander with the American Legion Post 313, said, “Older veterans are on fixed incomes and they cannot afford to be victims of scams. Something has to be done to protect our veterans and we are happy to work with the Attorney General’s Office and AARP on this new initiative.”
The Rev. Dr. Jim Thurman, state commander and past president of the National Association for Black Veterans, attended today’s event in Lexington said to a savvy con artist, stolen valor can be an extremely effective tool.
“It’s important that AARP and the Attorney General are taking the initiative to stop veterans from being scammed,” The. Rev. Thurman said. “We’ve heard from a number of former and current scam artists who tell us they specifically target veterans with false claims of military service brotherhood or that they know patriotism among veterans can be a powerful window in to their hearts and wallets.”
“Mission Veterans Protect” is the latest step Beshear has taken to both stop con artists and help protect veterans.
Most recently, Beshear announced his office assisted in shuttering the doors of a charity, VietNow National Headquarters Inc., that misled thousands of donors by claiming contributions supported local veterans.
Beshear has warned Kentucky’s veterans of a sham veterans charity dubbed, “Coalition for Veterans of America” and other common scams that trend around military related holidays. The office assists veterans and their families by helping them recover from scams.
Beshear recommends all Kentuckians stay ahead of scammers by signing up for his office’s Scam Alerts. To enroll text the words KYOAG Scam to GOV311 (468311) or online at ag.ky.gov/scams and select text message or email alert.
Those interested in becoming a Mission Veterans Protected coalition partner may contact Gerina Whethers, executive director of Beshear’s Office of Senior Protection at 502-696-5300 or [email protected].