Scammers piggybacking on legitimate class-action settlements
PHOENIX (3TV/CBS 5) - You’ve likely seen ads about the Camp Lejeune class action lawsuit for military veterans and their families who were exposed to contaminated water on base. Now, experts say scammers are trying to take advantage of the exposure that case is getting.
“We’re so used to it happening to more vulnerable and elderly people- but now it’s happening with younger people,” said Keidra O’Neal. She understands how damaging fraud can be after falling victim to identity theft a few years ago. “They’re getting very smart with their ways of conning people,” she said.
So when an email recently appeared in her inbox saying she was eligible for compensation at Camp Lejeune, a Marine base hundreds of miles away from her home, she knew it was fake. “They were saying I won money out of a settlement and that I was included in a class action lawsuit,” she said, “and I’m like how was my name being pulled in a class action lawsuit? Like, it was ridiculous.”
O’Neal says she never even served in the Marines. She told the scammer to leave her alone, but the emails continued with the fraudster asking for her personal information. “I feel like for you to toy with people’s emotions is very disrespectful and unwarranted, and I really think they should be prosecuted to the fullest extent,” she said.
According to the Better Business Bureau, O’Neal wasn’t the only one receiving phony emails from scammers looking to capitalize on a legitimate legal case. “Scammers have latched onto legitimate operations, legitimate opportunities—and weaponized them,” said Josh Planos from the Better Business Bureau.
He says these emails often contain a link that will download malware onto your device if clicked. In other cases, scammers may direct you to a malicious website that asks for your personal information or an upfront fee before you receive your money.
Planos says if you served in the Marines at Camp Lejeune during a certain time period, you are eligible for compensation, but this random email is not the way you’ll get it. “If you are going to pursue a class action lawsuit or if you’re going to pursue any sort of payout opportunity, you should apply through its official channel if you feel you’re deserving of compensation,” he said. That official channel is va.gov/camplejeune.
Planos says compensation in class action lawsuits takes time, so if someone offers you a quick settlement, don’t believe it. “Any time you receive unsolicited communication, ask yourself why you are receiving it,” he said, “before you move forward in any way, shape or form.”
O’Neal hopes by speaking out; others will know not to fall for this settlement scheme. “Don’t just block the calls like I did,” she said. “Honey, contact the FTC, FCC, Better Business Bureau. The more times that they’re reported the better they can get a handle on this!”
Copyright 2023 KTVK/KPHO. All rights reserved.