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Beware of ‘thank you for your service’ money scams, NCIS warns sailors and Marines

The Naval Criminal Investigative Service is seeing an uptick in reports from sailors and Marines who have been duped in a card-cracking scam on social media — in some cases after being promised money as a gesture of gratitude for their military service.

The scammers are reaching out to service members through several different ways, NCIS warned.

In some cases, service members are receiving friend requests on Facebook from someone with mutual friends. The scammer then tells the service members they would like to offer them grant money to thank them for their service, or offer them money for their “debt relief.”

Another trend NCIS has witnessed is scammers connecting with service members on social media through either posts or messages, all under the guise of being a debt consolidator or business owner.

Regardless of initial contact, scammers then ask service members to share their bank login information, along with some of the security question prompts that appear on their online bank account.

“Victims have reported that after the money is deposited directly into their accounts, the scammer then asks the victim to send a portion of the money via wire or cash to a third party,” NCIS said in a recent news release.

“Victims then discover that loans have been opened in their name with the same financial institution. Any attempts to further contact the scammer are unsuccessful, leaving the victim to pay off the loan.”

These scams have resulted in “severe financial losses” for service members, NCIS said.

NCIS provided a series of recommendations to sailors, such as halting continued contact with the scammer, alerting their banks or financial institutions to lock accounts, and looking into a credit lock through credit bureaus like Equifax.

Likewise, NCIS recommended sailors inform their commands, the NCIS office, and also law enforcement authorities, and advised against sharing bank login details with anyone.

Although NCIS warned sailors last month to be aware of COVID-19-related schemes, the agency initially said it did not believe these card-cracking scams are connected to the pandemic because there had already been a rise in scams over the past year.

However, NCIS told Military Times it received an image Thursday afternoon of a scam circulating via email targeting Navy Federal Credit Union members that offered to assist them with $800 for COVID-19 relief. The email requested members to validate their Navy Federal customer data in order for the funds to clear.

“We urge the Department of the Navy family to remain vigilant of scams offering promises getting out of debt and making extra money, especially during this challenging time for our nation,” NCIS spokesman Jeff Houston said in an email to Military Times.

Service members have frequently fallen prey to scammers and lost millions of dollars as a result.

According to a December report analyzing data from the Federal Trade Commission and Better Business Bureau, active duty personnel and veterans from the Navy have been tied up in 143,718 scams totaling $62,542,897 since 2012. Those from the Marine Corps have also been involved in 57,204 scams totaling $24,976,528.

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