EYEWITNESS NEWS (WBRE/WYOU)— The Pennsylvania Department of Military and Veterans Affairs (DMVA) is alerting veterans about scammers ‘poaching pension’.

DMVA says pension poaching is financial exploitation often targeting veterans who are 65 or older or veterans who are disabled and may be receiving monthly pension payments from DMVA and/or the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA).

When pension poaching occurs it allows scammers to charge veterans or their advocates for assistance when applying or submitting applications for military pensions, as mentioned by the DMVA.

“Older veterans may be the prime target for scammers, but all veterans and their advocates should be vigilant when seeking assistance with benefits earned through military service,” stated Joel Mutschler, director, of DMVA Bureau of Veterans Programs, Initiatives, Reintegration, and Outreach. 

Officials say the process of the scheme often involves advising claimants to hide their assets in trusts or annuity products often causing a loss in investments and lucrative fees paid to the advisor.

DMVA notes veterans should be more observant of PACT Act scams as well, PACT Act expands VA health care and benefits those who are exposed to burn pits, agent orange, and other toxic substances.

“The best way to avoid being scammed is for veterans to use an accredited veteran service officer when applying for benefits. These trusted counselors do not charge for their services, and always look after the best interest of veterans,” explained Mutschler.

Here is how veterans and advocates can protect against PACT Act scams:

  • Do not provide personal, medical, financial, or VA benefit information online or over the phone. Federal agencies will not contact you unless you make a request
  • Do not click on online ads or engage with social media that seems suspicious
  • Look for “https://” at the start of website addresses; that means they’re more likely to be legitimate. Enable multi-factor authentication on all accounts, if possible
  • Never share your VA login information or deposit VA benefits directly into a third-party bank account unless the person is court appointed or a VA fiduciary
  • Work with veterans service providers you already know
  • Report any suspected fraud to ftc.gov

Mutschler said he wants to make clear that veterans or their advocates should never pay for the following:

  • U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs or PA DMVA forms
  • Pension application fees
  • Restructuring assets in order to “qualify”
  • The promise of eligibility for a pension
  • Lump sum payment on a pension

Experienced or suspect a pension scam? Call (717) 783-1944, or submit a complaint online on Attorney General’s website.

You can also report any VA-related scam to the VA benefits hotline at 800-827-1000.