By Debbie Gregory.
Shopping centers and malls near military installations are full of young, in-shape people who have shorter haircuts, upright posture, and who swing their arms when they walk. Many Americans can recognize troops when they are out and about. Service members, especially junior-enlisted, should be aware that there are those who seek to prey on military members, due to their steady paychecks and sometimes, naïve spending. And they can spot a GI from a mile away.
Various dishonest payday loans, auto-loans, jewelry stores, bargain cell-phone providers, computer salespeople and other schemers are specifically targeting military members in order to dupe them. These predators are costing individuals thousands of dollars and are putting their victims’military careers in jeopardy. Many of our military personnel may not be able to spot these frauds, even after they have been ripped off.
Here are a few tips for service members to avoid scams:
Loans & credit:
If you don’t have the money to buy something, you should ask yourself one thing; “Do I really need it?” Many service members are plagued by horrible credit. Bad credit can cause a lot of needless stress, including denial of security clearances. For large purchases (TVs, audio equipment, computers, engagement rings, etc.) try saving your money until you have enough money to buy them out-right, instead of jeopardizing your credit. If you feel the need to take on a loan or credit purchase, especially when buying a car, you should only borrow from licensed lenders and creditors. You should also educate yourself on interest rates, and absolutely have your command or base legal office review the contract before you agree to anything. If the creditor or lender won’t allow you to have the contract reviewed, you should cease transactions with them immediately.
Emails are chalked full of viruses and scams. Never open any emails that you don’t know who the sender is. If you see an advertisement, especially in an email, and the deal sounds too good to be true, it probably is. A lot of email scams tell you that you are a “LUCKY WINNER” or that you are privy to unmatched savings and all you have to do to claim your reward is input your personal information. These scams are intended for use by identity thieves. Unless you knowingly entered a contest, you haven’t won anything. In fact, you most likely end up losing a lot.
Many retailers are now employing sales reps who work on commission. Kiosks at malls are an obvious example of this; the salespeople do anything and everything they can to get you to stop, look and buy. The best avoidance tactic is to politely say, “No, thank you,” and keep on moving. But there are the less obvious tricksters out to get you to spend your money on something you don’t really want. Have you ever wondered why retailers employ attractive females to work in the men’s clothing department? While often times these salespeople are assisting you in a necessary purchase, just be sure, before you pull out your wallet, that the purchase you are about to make is for something you really wanted to buy, and not something that you were told you couldn’t live without. If you aren’t sure that you want something, or don’t think that you can afford it, then you should walk away, regardless of what the salesperson says. YOUR money should only be spent on what YOU want. Don’t let anyone pressure you to buy anything.