JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – It’s hard to imagine that someone would want to scam those who served our country. But new data released by the Federal Trade Commission show veterans on average lose almost $1,000 to scams.
That comes as no surprise to retired Navy Lt. Jason Redman, who joined the Navy on Sept. 11, 1992, and rose through the ranks to become part of the branch’s special operations force. He served in Afghanistan and Iraq until 2007 when he was wounded in action.
“In the middle of the 2007 surge, Anbar Awakening, I was shot eight times between my body and my body armor,” Redman recalled. “Took a round in the face.”
While many would agree that Redman had fulfilled his duty serving his country, he wasn’t done yet. Now, he’s investing his time and energy in coaching fellow veterans and active duty military through the obstacles that life throws at them. That includes helping them avoid scams.
“It is something that is becoming more and more prevalent in the military, and more and more of these scams and these individuals encounter fraud,” Redman said. “Catfishing is a huge problem in the military now.”
“These individuals are preying on ignorance and they’re preying on individuals emotionally to extort them for money,” he added.
Between 2015 and 2019, veterans lost an average of $950 to scammers, according to FTC data. Active-duty military reported losing an average of $775, compared to $658 for the average civilian.
But Florida’s leaders are pushing legislation that would crack down on scams and fraud targeting veterans and military. On Monday, state Chief Financial Officer Jimmy Patronis announced a measure that would make such scams the equivalent of a white-collar crime, along with penalties to go with it.
Patronis told News4Jax that newly enlisted members of the military can become easy targets for scammers.
“If you look at an 18-year-old airman, this is there first time getting a significant paycheck,” he said. “They’re independent, they’re on their own at the same time they’re defending our country. But that extra income they got with that type of liberation and freedom makes them a good target for scammers.”
FTC has received more than 163,000 reports of fraud since 2015.
Redman believes that number could grow if both active duty military members and veterans are not informed about the existence of these scams.
“I’ll be honest, a member of my family has been extorted out of at this point thousands and thousands of dollars,” he said. “It makes me sick but the reality is we live in a world where there’s always going to be people like that. People who find the easy way.”
For the holidays, the FTC recommends talking about scams with family and friends to make sure they’re aware of the threat fraud poses. And the agency suggests reaching out to anyone you know who’s alone so you can help them avoid falling victim to scams.
If someone you know is a victim of a scam, Patronis recommends reporting the crime to FraudFreeFlorida.com.