MORRISTOWN (WATE) – Phone scammers usually try to target vulnerable groups, like retirees or people in debt. Another group heavily targeted is people in the military, both retired and those on active duty.
Fraudsters will call to “offer help” with paperwork for pensions or benefits, but what they’re really after is to steal personal information, or identity theft, to enrich themselves.
It was early AprIl when Becky Kopper received a strange phone message that had her puzzled.
“This is Benny Vargas from Marine Corps, calling in regards to your reserve retirement. Would you please give me a call…” said the message.
While the caller’s name was hard to understand, the intent of his call was unmistakable. He had important information about Gil Kopper’s retirement. Gil Kopper retired from the Marines 28 years ago. Becky Kopper gave the phone to her husband, who listened to the guy for around 10 minutes.
“The way I heard it from him is that I have a whole bunch of money coming to me,” said Gil Kopper adding that the called talked about back pay and a military refund, but he had never heard of either.
“He was asking us for information and not giving us any information,” said Becky Kopper.
“I said I’m retired active duty,” Gil Kopper said.
Despite what Gil Kopper said, the trickster insisted on trying to squeeze personal information from him. He retired as a Master Sergeant and served multiple tours in Vietnam before leaving the Marines after a distinguished career. Using his best “command voice,” he got fed up with the scammer.
“Apparently he didn’t like my voice because I was harsh. I told him flat out, ‘I’m not giving you any information.’ He said, ‘I need it.’ I said, ‘Sir, if you need it you can go back to headquarters and find out all the information you need,'” said Gil Kopper.
When WATE 6 On Your Side called the number left on the Koppers’ caller ID, only a voice mailbox was available and our message was never returned.
While the Koppers didn’t fall for the scam, they worry that others might.
“Some people in worse financial positions than us is going to say, ‘Money, money money,’ to pay bills, buy food, all the necessities of life. And they’ll go for it,” said Becky Kopper.
Numbers compiled by the Consumer Sentinel Network show that military retirees and veterans are targeted and the most vulnerable to identity theft scams. Compromised government benefits made up over 51 percent of the complaints related to identity theft. The best way to prevent fraud is to report any suspected scams to local authorities or the government agency that claimed to be calling you directly.
The best advice is if a caller requests personal information, you should say no and hang up.