North Carolina Division of Aging and Adult Services
To NC Senior Consumer Fraud Task Force Members
The BBB Military Line today warned veterans to be wary of an email message concerning a veterans assistance organization. The suspect email purports to come from an attorney for the VA’s Office of General Counsel and could be a vehicle for obtaining personal information from veterans or installing malware in their computers. The warning was issued via BBB Military Line’s E-News system and appears below. Please note the helpful discussion of “scareware” in the final paragraph of the warning.
December 15, 2010
Warnings to Veterans
You may have received a forwarded email recently with the subject “Warning to Veterans!!” It says it’s from an official at the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), but guess what? It isn’t.
The email, which includes a Facebook link, warns veterans against an organization called Veterans Affairs Services (VAS) that it says is providing VA benefits counseling and gathering personal information from veterans without authorization. The email goes on to ask veterans to send any information about VAS violations of the U.S. Code to Michael Daugherty, a staff attorney at the VA Office of General Counsel.
BBB Military Line contacted the VA to ask if the email was legitimate, and received this response: “We checked with Mr. Daugherty, who is an attorney in the VA Office of General Counsel, who reports the email did not come from his office. He said there is no current official communication by the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) regarding Veterans Affairs Services. Veterans seeking the assistance of a VA-recognized service organization for purposes of submitting a claim for VA benefits may search for VA-recognized organizations at the General Counsel's accreditation search page: http://www4.va.gov/ogc/apps/accreditation/index.asp. We're not sure where the email originated or the purpose, but again, it did not originate from VA.”
Where the email originated is a mystery, but there are two lessons to take away from this:
One is for veterans to be very cautious about providing information to individuals or organizations who say they can help obtain VA benefits. BBB has had previous inquiries about organizations gathering personal information from veterans. Before dealing with anyone who offers help of this sort, veterans should check them out at the VA link above – and check them out at www.bbb.org, too. Be completely sure they are legitimate and recognized by the VA before you deal with them.
The other lesson is to never click on a link in an unsolicited email from someone you don’t know, such as the Facebook link in this "Warning to Veterans!!" email. Scammers who want to infect your computer with malware often use a tactic called “scareware”: they send you a warning about something bad and provide you a link to fix the problem or obtain more information. When you click on the link, you open your computer to downloading a virus or malware that may be contained within the link.
******End of Alert******
Date: December 15, 2010
David N. Kirkman
NC Senior Consumer
Fraud Task Force
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