Under Fire: Military Veterans and Consumer Fraud

Authored By: AARP


Despite the growing number of studies about fraud, few have addressed fraud that targets our military veterans. 

A survey was administered between October 17 and October 31, 2017 to a sample of 600 US military veterans and 588 nonveterans using NORC’s Amerispeak Internet Panel. An additional 152 US military veterans who lost money to consumer fraud completed the survey, using a sample from Survey Sampling International (SSI).

Veterans are more victimized by fraud than nonveterans

  • More veterans have lost money to scams (16%) than nonveterans (8%) during the past five years.

Veterans are targeted by a large volume of veteran-specific scams attempts

  • Nearly 8 in 10 veterans (78%) report having received a scam attempt in the last five years that was seeking to take advantage of their status as a military veteran. Examples include improving your VA loan, taking advantage of a little-known government programs for vets or paying for a back, knee or arm brace because of one’s military service.

Veterans and nonveterans are targeted by a high volume of general scam attempts

  • Veterans and nonveterans alike are targeted by a large volume of various telephone and email scams. Nearly one-quarter (22%) of veterans and one in five (20%) nonveterans report receiving 10 or more suspicious phone calls per week. About four in ten veterans (44%) and nonveterans (41%) receive more than 10 suspicious emails each week. Nearly all veterans (97%) and non-veterans (97%) have received at least one scam attempt in the past five years.

Veteran victims of fraud differ from Veteran nonvictims in several ways

  • Victims experienced more negative life events (3.1) than nonvictims (2.2) overall and in the following seven areas:
    • Had a significant amount of debt. (37% to 24%)
    • Family or relationship problems. (36% to 26%)
    • Serious injury or illness myself. (28% to 17%)
    • Concerns about being lonely. (28% to 12%)
    • Significant financial loss. (20% to 7%)
    • Struggled with mental health or addiction issues. (17% to 10%)
    • Stress associated with moving. (15% to 10%)
  • Victims are more likely to:
    • Trust people who have served in the military more than those who have not. (74% to 61%)
    • Donate to charities that support our servicemen and veterans. (78% to 68%)
    • Take chances with their money if they think there is a chance of it paying off. (29% to 21%)
    • Purchase a product or service in response to a phone call (28% to 11%) or an email (24% to 11%) from someone with whom they had previously not done business.
    • Do things without thinking through all the alternatives. (30% to 15%)

Read the full report here Under Fire:  Military Veterans and Consumer Fraud in the United States

To learn more about the issue and this survey, please contact Doug Shadel at dshadel@aarp.orgor Karla Pak at  


Shadel, Doug, and Karla Pak. Under Fire: Military Veterans and Consumer Fraud. Washington DC: AARP Research, November 2017.

Last Review and Update: Jul 19, 2018

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