We see new Internet identity theft scams all too often at BBB, but the latest scam is particularly despicable because it targets Americans serving in the military.
The U.S. Army’s Criminal Investigation Command (CIC) and BBB are warning about the “My Army Benefits” website at usmilitarybenifit.org. The URL is a deliberate misspelling of the address for the Military Benefits Association, a nonprofit organization, while the website claims to represent the U.S. military itself.
The site is designed to “collect soldiers’ Army Knowledge Online accounts, email accounts and passwords.” It also falsely claims that “the U.S. military has granted access to unclaimed and accumulated benefits for active duty soldiers, and that benefits not claimed within the stipulated period will be available for claims after 60 months,” according to investigators.
So how can you tell if you’ve reached a scam military website or the real thing?
First of all, the Army’s official benefits website is “MyArmyBenefits” at myarmybenefits.us.army.mil “Official military websites will all have the .mil domain name,” notes BBB Military Line director Brenda Linnington. “Any other domain extension should be a red flag.”
Other red flags include unsolicited emails or text messages; spelling, punctuation and grammar errors and requests for private information such as email addresses or passwords.
BBB has the following advice for anyone worried about online scams:
- Be cautious about claims that seem too good to be true: The U.S. government never gives away “unclaimed benefits” as if they were unclaimed property, especially if the unclaimed benefits are part of an important assistance program, as military benefits are. Be skeptical about receiving anything for free.
- Check URLs for accuracy: Make sure that everything is spelled correctly and that you have reached an official site. Verify the names and URLs or businesses by looking them up at BBB.org and using Internet searches.
- Don’t give out information if you feel uncertain: If you’ve reached a website that you don’t trust, don’t log in or input any of your information. Stop all contact if you have previously responded to any emails, and contact your local information assurance office if you accessed the website from a government computer or system.
- Keep your computer safe: As we advised in January, install anti-virus software on your computer and check regularly for software and operating system updates and patches. Don’t open attachments or click on links in emails unless you can confirm the email came from someone you trust.
- Ask BBB for help: File a complaint with BBB if you have a disagreement with a business or have been ripped off by a scammer.