State Attorney General Kamala Harris has issued a consumer alert urging Californians to be on the lookout for "pension poaching" scams that target seniors who served in the military and their survivors.
Harris said in the alert issued Tuesday that the scams prey on veterans by targeting financial assistance offered through the Veterans Administration Aid and Attendance Program, a program intended to provide pension benefits to financially disadvantaged wartime veterans and their survivors over 65 years old.
"California's veterans have made extraordinary sacrifices to keep our nation safe and uphold our most sacred values and freedoms," Harris said. "Sadly, many of our senior veterans are being targeted by scam artists seeking to take advantage of them for a quick profit."
Veterans and their family members should be on the lookout for insurance agents or their representatives who are posing as volunteers or accredited Veteran Affairs representatives who are offering to help seniors apply for their Veteran Affairs pension benefits.
Accredited representatives of Veterans Affairs do not ask individuals to pay money or move assets in connection with applying for a pension benefit, according to Harris.
The scam has been linked to insurance agents or their representatives who are receiving a sales commission for selling an annuity or irrevocable trust.
According to Harris' office, these agents have been luring seniors into buying annuities or setting up irrevocable trusts that create a false appearance of financial hardship by attempting to conceal the senior's assets.
High fees for theses services, including undisclosed sales commissions, and strict withdrawal limitations threaten to leave seniors without access to funds they may need for their care, according to Harris' office.
Seniors who fall prey to the scam may face financial and legal consequences if the concealed funds are discovered and may likely have to repay any pension benefits received.
Harris said her office is working to protect veterans and ensure that predators are held accountable.
The public is urged to report such scams to their local VA center. For a directory of VA centers, click here.
Attorneys will be made available, free of charge, to veterans and their families who believe they are victims who need to file a claim.
A complaint can also be filed with the California Department of Justice at oag.ca.gov.