PORTLAND, Me. – Military families, including credit union members, are being targeted by con artists trying to profit from concern about troops stationed in Iraq. Maine offers an example. Jon Paradise, director of communications at the Maine Credit Union League, got a heads-up call from three credit unions about a week ago informing him that their members had asked about questionable phone calls they received. After checking with CUNA and some other sources, Paradise posted an advisory on the MCUL Web site and also issued a communications alert warning credit unions about the scams. In one telemarketing ripoff, callers ask for $100 a month for daily updates on a son, daughter, husband or wife serving in Iraq. Government officials say this is definitely a fraud. Other calls come from people claiming to be from the Internal Revenue Service. They say the relatives are entitled to a $4,000 tax refund because they have a family member serving in the military. The caller then asks for a credit card number to cover “an administrative fee.” As the MCUL alert warns, “While the family waits for a refund, scammers go on a spending spree with the credit card. Real IRS employees would not ask for a credit card number, charge fees for a refund payment, or request personal information by e-mail.” Paradise explains, “We wanted to let people know this is out there and it is a scam. If members ask, the standard response should be to remind them not to give credit card numbers to solicitors over the phone. “We don’t know the extent of it at this point, in the state of Maine at least. We have a big naval air station in Brunswick, about 25 minutes north of Portland. A number of families live around the base if not on the base. That’s why it’s of specific interest to credit unions in that area.” He urges credit unions to take a proactive approach without panicking military families. “I think they’re already vulnerable. Their loved ones are in harms way thousands of miles from home. They’re hungry for any type of information. The con artists are somewhat ingenious in playing on people’s emotions.” -

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