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In honor of Women’s History Month and National Consumer Protection Week, AARP Illinois, the National Women Veterans United (N.W.V.U.), The United States Postal Inspection Service and the Jesse Brown VA Medical Center launched Operation Protect Veterans on Saturday, March 10, 2018. This program has been created to help veterans protect themselves against consumer fraud, identity theft, and other scams.

Not only did the program focus on education veterans about many different scams, it honored women veterans who also fought, served and laid there life down to protect our country. President of N.W.V.U and Army Veteran Rochelle Crump honored Army Sgt. Simone A. Robinson of Crestwood, IL.  Robinson was killed in action in Afghanistan in 2009 and left behind a daughter who was 2 years old at the time.

Ethel Crowder was another veteran acknowledged for her service. Crowder was in the first Black Women’s Army Corps unit that served overseas during the war from 1944-1946. Crowder and her comrades were responsible for sorting all the mail and packages and making sure they reached the front lines.

While discussing protecting veterans from scams, President Crump stated that there are reputable resources out here through the N.W.V.U, but veterans should also watch out for non-reputable scams from people.

Crump stated, “that every veteran should have at least one visit to the benefits area (not just the health area) to ask for authorized sources.”

The United States Postal Inspection Service and AARP Illinois shared ways to look out for scams and services that are provided for Veterans and Non-Veterans who feel they are being harassed by scammers.

U.S. Postal Inspector Amanda Weisbecker said that criminals target veterans because veterans trust fellow members of the military, making them vulnerable to imposters. “We’re seeing a lot of retiree benefits scams, we’re seeing a lot of romance scams with people asking for money. I have dealt with an elderly gentleman who thought he won the lottery and depleted his savings completely because he was asked to by the criminal.”

U.S. Postal Inspector of Public Information Rep. Julie Kenney said, “In some types of scams, they [scammers] will call and say they are from the VA and they want to update files, or an unknown distant relative will call and state they need money; don’t give out information to anyone who is calling and asking over the phone

.”

Deceivers only have one agenda and that’s to convince their victim(s) to believe in something that is not true to gain a personal advantage for themselves, the officials told veterans.

Associate State Director of AARP Terri Worman gave a presentation on cybersecurity.

Worman urged everyone to use a medium and eccentric password on cellular phone devices and internet data.

Anyone can commit U.S. Veterans Disability benefits fraud–a patient, VA employee, contractor, claimant or beneficiary. Any person who detects wrongdoing has the obligation to report a benefits fraud situation to the U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs and Office of Inspector General Hotline.

Chicago Police Department Officer Burrow stated that if you have an older relative, to check on him/her as much as possible. Also, if you see someone come to your door who you do not know, please do not open it; call the police immediately.

Jesse Brown Medical Center Director Marc A. Magill gave a personal story of how his mother, who passed away earlier this year, was subjected to fraud because of her openness. “This is personal for my mom and this is personal for my veterans… we are committed to providing the highest care of services to our veterans by repaying them for the sacrifices they have made for our freedoms. We will diligently work with our partners to ensure our veterans’ safety and security is upheld and that they are not victims of any type of fraud or scam… and we will support any efforts to bring justice to those taking advantage of our national heroes.”

The officials concluded by asking attendees to look out for fake charities, GI Bill education marketing scams, other special offers, investment/pension scams and many more. Scammers often use sound-alike names (if not inventing authentic organizations) to request funds.

Watch for suspicious emails, phone calls, or mailings targeting military veterans.  You can report them to aarp.org/protectveterans or call 1-855-800-9023. For more information on benefits, resources, and fraud scams contact any of the organizations listed.

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