AUGUSTA, Maine (NEWS CENTER) -- Veterans enrolled in a program to help them find jobs by paying for school have been put on alert about a sneaky scam artist that is draining bank accounts.
"It targets people who have already enrolled in a specific program," explained Julie Rabinowitz, director of communications for the Maine Department of Labor. "So if you are a veteran, and you have already enrolled in the Veterans Retraining Assistance Program (VRAP), the person who is calling you refers to your enrollment or application in that program, so it makes them sound more legitimate, and it lulls the veteran into thinking that they are going to get their money faster."
The VRAP program provides up to 12 month's worth of funding to unemployed veterans to help them cover the costs of tuition or other school related expenses while they take courses designed to help them find a job in a high demand occupation.
According to Rabinowitz, the caller identifies himself as 'James' and refers to the veterans participation in the VRAP program. He tells them they can get the money faster and deposited into their bank account if they provide him with their bank account information.
The scam artist then instructs the veteran to call a number with a Washington DC area code and provide 'Kelly' the information and to authorize withdrawl of $205 as a service fee. Vets who have fallen for the scam have lost the money in their accounts once they provide the information.
"It is especially nasty in that it targets veterans who have already given so much, and in order to be eligible for this program, they have to be unemployed," stated Rabinowitz.
"If you are enrolled in this program, the government is not going to make you pay money to enroll in the program where they are going to give you a stipend."
While no veterans in Maine have come forward as victims of this scam, Rabinowitz says more veterans are enrolling in the program. She says more than 100 Mainers have signed on to participate so far, and with enrollment ongoing, more are doing so daily. By next fall, 99,000 veterans nationwide are expected to take part.
The Federal Trade Commission is investigating the scam and warns all consumers not to provide personal information to anyone over the phone or via email unless you contacted them directly.