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VA warns of new 'marketing scam'

Nov. 22, 2013 - 02:31PM   |  
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The Veterans Affairs Department is warning veterans about a “marketing scam” that reportedly targets callers trying to reach two of VA’s national call centers.

VA officials have notified law enforcement authorities to address the situation, according to a fraud alert posted on the department’s Facebook page late Thursday.

The marketing company has established two toll-free numbers that differ by one digit from the VA National Call Center and the VA GI Bill Call Center. If the caller happens to dial the wrong number, the veteran is offered a gift card in return for providing personal and financial information, including credit card card information.

“Note that VA will never ask you for a credit card number or banking information over the phone,” the VA alert stated.

Military Times called each of the bogus numbers. Initial recorded messages tell callers they have been selected or may be selected for a $100 Wal-Mart gift voucher, and direct them to press 1 to be transferred to someone who will help process their vouchers.

On one call, when asked if the number that had been reached was for VA, the customer service representative paused and said the VA number “has been changed or disconnected,” and said the gift vouchers were being offered for the inconvenience. She said a $9.97 fee is charged for shipping and handling.

“Veterans are encouraged to use care when calling VA national lines and to be aware that the [Veterans Benefits Administration] office does not sell gift cards or ask for credit card information,” said a news release from Sen. Michael Bennet, D-Colo., alerting veterans to the VA fraud alert.

Bennet said the marketing company representatives are vague about whether they were officially working with VA, and “respond yes when asked if they can help with VA benefits, and they may even offer to transfer callers after requesting credit card information.”

According to VA:

■The VA National Call Center number is 800-827-1000. The number used by the bogus marketing company is 800-872-1000.

■The VA GI Bill Call Center number is 888-442-4551. The number used by the bogus marketing company is 888-442-4511.■

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