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Veterans targeted by scams need our help; be their ‘battle buddy’ — | #cybercrime | #computerhacker

Carroll Harris.

Imagine spending years driving a Humvee around a war zone at 5 mph, using only your eyes in a valiant attempt to spot homemade roadside bombs…risking your life minute by agonizing minute to save the lives of your fellow soldiers…only to come home and find you are targeted by criminals because of the PTSD you are suffering from.

There are roughly 16 million veterans in the US today and they all deserve our unending gratitude.  And protection.  We’re failing at this. Our veterans are targeted by criminals in terrible and revolting ways, for reasons that are now more clear to me than ever.  Precisely those traits that make the women and men of our military good at protecting our way of life make them vulnerable to criminals.

For this week’s Perfect Scam episode, I spoke with Michael Haring, who served in the Iraq War and now lives about 90 minutes north of Denver, Colorado. He was forced to declare bankruptcy after a fast-talking financial scam firm manipulated him into trading in monthly disability checks for a (paltry) up-front lump sum payment.  The firm that did this to Haring committed this crime for nearly nine years to what feels like a battalion of former soldiers before it was shut down by the Justice Department. Along the way, debt courts actually enabled the practice by granting default judgments to the firm, allowing them to collect disability payment-backed loans — and ridiculous penalties — through wage garnishments.  All this happened even though the lump-sum contracts were unenforceable.

I hope you’ll listen to this week’s double episode; you’ll gain some understanding of the work done by US soldiers in the Middle East.  We should all listen to veterans and give them a chance to share what they went through, so we can — in some small way — share the burden they have been asked to carry.  I hope it will inspire you with an even stronger urge to protect these brave 16 million Americans.

For this episode, I also interviewed Carroll Harris, who tries to spot scams targeting veterans the the U.S. Postal Inspection Service.  A 30-year Marine, he offers amazing insights into what veterans need, and how we can all help them.  It begins and ends with — they need “battle buddies.”  We all do. In the partial transcript below, Harris explains the battle buddy concept more, and how anyone can become a battle buddy.

It’s not easy. Often, when we offer help to someone who is suffering, the offer and the help is impulsively pushed away. Well, keep trying, Harris urges all of us.

“You’re going to get rejection in some cases from the person that you’re reaching out to, and that rejection is …you know it’s a breakfast of champions. You’ve just got to soak up that rejection and continue to come back with love in your heart and help that person through it,” he told ne. I have to say, that had me willing to charge into battle for him.

Click here to listen to this episode (Part 1 and Part 2), or click the play buttons below.  Below that you’ll find the partial transcript.


———————————PARTIAL TRANSCRIPT————————

[00:21:35] Bob: So we’ve talked about why veterans are a target. Can you explain to people who might not realize this, why veterans benefits are such an attractive target to criminals?

[00:21:43] Carroll Harris: Sure, so the veterans benefits that are provided by the Veterans Benefits Administration, there’s a lot of nuance there, and there’s cash flows associated with it. If they have physical injuries or if they are going through post-traumatic stress, uh, those cash flows and the counseling and the, the things that the veterans rate can be attractive to a criminal because they know that there’s an annuity that exists. So that’s why they’re being targeted, because there are cash flows there that the scammers can get to and because the veterans have that sense of community and oftentimes when veterans leave the service, they, they miss that pride and belonging that, that strong sense of camaraderie that can only be developed through those difficult arduous circumstances. And that creates a vulnerability, if the veteran doesn’t find a, a healthy way to do a transition and to fill that void or sometimes I refer to it as a hole in your heart. Everybody’s got a hole in their, a hole in their heart, and they’re filling it with different things. It can be something positive or something negative, and sometimes the veterans are struggling, and they may not have come from an advantageous background. Many of our veterans, the people that are serving, come from difficult backgrounds in their youth. So they have that as well as the, the challenges of having survived uh years of combat for some of them. And that creates a susceptibility. And that’s why they need good organizations like AARP, or the American Legion where I, where I was enjoying watching the Super Bowl last night. They need these, these powerfully good social organizations, philanthropical organizations, that social fabric to fill that hole in their heart with a protective envelope. They need their battle buddies.

[00:23:34] Bob: They need their battle buddies. We all need battle buddies of course, but it’s a concept that really helps veterans with that hole in their hearts, Carroll told us.

[00:23:46] Carroll Harris: And for those who haven’t found that, they get, they get approached by the scammers and pretty much everybody’s being targeted. The scammer catches them at the right time and the right place, they get them in, in a weak moment, they don’t have a battle buddy to check, they’ll make a bad financial decision. That’s why we always talk about having a good battle buddy before you make any significant financial decisions. There’s, I, I like to use the letters PBC. Pause, Breathe, Connect. When these scammers approach, they’re going to try to create some time pressure. They do it with lots of scams. They’re going to try to crunch the veteran into quickly making significant financial decisions. And that’s why I encourage everyone, veterans and beyond, they need to pause, they need to take a breath, and they need to connect with a battle buddy. A trusted resource. Someone outside of the scope of what the scammer’s trying to get them to do. Pause, breathe, connect before you make any significant financial decision, and that is how you can up-armor yourself.

[00:24:45] Bob: PBC. Pause, Breath, and Connect. I like that a lot.

[00:24:50] Carroll Harris: There you go. Pretty easy to remember that too, right?

[00:24:53] Bob: Yeah, sure, sure.

[00:24:55] Bob: And so Carroll really believes everyone needs 3 to 5 battle buddies in their life. They can be hard to find, but resources are available.

[00:25:07] Carroll Harris: There are many directions you could run for help. The, the big thing is to reach out and make contact with someone. You can choose who the battle buddy is, but you’ve got to reach out and not fall for that time pressure crunch if you, if you don’t just have somebody naturally in your circle that is, you know that, that is a, a good buddy that you trust. I like to reference the 3 to 5. I believe everybody should have three to five people in their life that are their, their battle buddies, that are trusted resources that they can wash over uh challenging circumstances, they can share openly and freely with that person in a place of safety to explore the art of the possible by hey, what’s the best choice when I go through this difficult crunch? So everybody should have a 3 to 5, and if they don’t, they should, they should find an organization to get it. I, I’m a firm believer in the American Legion as a place where you can get that, because it’s oriented on social good and in serving veterans, and you don’t have to be a veteran to go over and be associated with them by the way. They have, they have veterans as well as nonveteran membership opportunities where you can serve and protect and, and help other people, and develop your own 3 to 5 so you have good battle buddies in life.

[00:26:13] Bob: And if you know a veteran, you can be that battle buddy. You can step up and help a veteran who might be at risk.

[00:26:22] Carroll Harris: We can do better as a society just like we’re doing here on this podcast. We can spread the word, let them know. We can watch out for our brothers and our sisters. We can be the battle buddy.

[00:26:31] Bob: What should friends and family do if they know of a veteran and they’re worried that person might be vulnerable, or might be in the middle of a crime right now? How can they be–, become a battle buddy? It’s a little bit more nuanced than, than I would think a lot of people realize.

[00:26:46] Carroll Harris: Yeah, it really depends on the personality of the veteran but I, what I would suggest that you, you find the right timing and the tact to, to make an approach and to let them know you care about them and that you’re concerned for them and the reasons why. That whatever, whatever scam or scheme or the reason you think they may be being manipulated. And, and to be honest and to lay it onto the table, and and to, and to advance the conversation from there. Some people, people might be responsive to it. Sometimes when the conversation happens, the veterans, uh don’t believe that’s the case, and it’s not just veterans, it’s just, it, it’s Americans in general. Sometimes when you confront them, uh you know in the most loving way you can to say, “Hey, I believe you’re being scammed, you’re becoming separated from your funds.” It, you have to fight against that for a while, because they just don’t believe you that that’s the case. And that requires consistent engagement, because that person’s been so manipulated that they’re not, you know, believing their son or their daughter or their best friend, and they’re believing the scammer who calls them on the phone all the time or wherever or whatever the, the flavor of the interaction. Sometimes it’s just emails on the internet, ironically, that can have a stronger bond or grip around that person’s mind than their own son or daughter. So it’s very tough, it’s very nuanced, and it does require some energy and some engagement to break through, break that tie and to protect this person from being further manipulated.

[00:28:16] Bob: I like what you said there about, you know, ongoing conversations because so often the first one will, will fail, and, and as a person who’s trying to help, you need to keep trying over time. It takes, it takes engagement over time, right?

[00:28:28] Carroll Harris: Absolutely. It takes engagement over time, it takes tenacity on the, the battle buddy or the caregiver. It takes patience. Um, you, you know, you’re going to get rejection in some cases from the person that you’re reaching out to, and that rejection is a cham–, you know it’s a breakfast of champions. You’ve just got to soak up that rejection and continue to come back with love in your heart and help that person through it. (laugh)

[00:28:52] Bob: That’s going on my desk tomorrow. “Rejection is the breakfast of champions. Soak it up!”


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