With a potential total payout in the tens of billions of dollars, lawsuits seeking damages connected to the toxic water at Camp Lejeune, N.C., have drawn not just the attention of the military and legal communities, but also many types of scam artists.
Potential plaintiffs have until August 2024 to file suit, and an influx of litigation funding – money from investors who help cover legal costs in exchange for a portion of the settlement – has made these suits even more attractive to law firms, according to a Bloomberg Law report.
That means more interest from companies who provide prospective clients to those firms. And not all of them may be legitimate: The report outlines the story of a Marine’s widow who shared some details of her husband’s death with a representative of such a company, then got a call from a man claiming to be her lawyer.
He said he had received details about her case, including forms with her electronic signature, from that company. The forms were falsified, designed to make a stronger case for benefits earmarked for those who spent at least a month at Lejeune from 1953 to 1987. She asked him to destroy the paperwork, per the report, and he complied.
[FROM VA.GOV: Camp Lejeune Water Contamination Health Issues]
Repeated advertising by law firms seeking legitimate clients have put a spotlight on the case, allowing scammers to take advantage of veterans, family members, and survivors who may have seen the ads. The Better Business Bureau (BBB) has fielded multiple Lejeune-related scam reports, including at least one from scammers representing themselves as Camp Lejeune officials, seeking details about a potential scam victim’s Marine brother and pledging a $5 million payout.
Some scammers are after that personal data to sell or use to access other accounts. Others may pledge to provide the benefit after collecting an upfront fee, then tack on additional fees to keep the victim on the hook.
So, how do you protect yourself and make smart decisions regarding Camp Lejeune-related compensation?
Consider Your Options. Veterans who receive compensation from such a lawsuit will see any VA benefits connected to the suit offset by any gains made from the legal action. Learn more about that process and how to file a VA claim at this link. Veterans also may be eligible for a quicker payout option, but would face a similar compensation offset.
[FROM NAVY.MIL: Camp Lejeune Justice Act Claims]
Know the Process. Legitimate law firms or their representatives will not promise a cash settlement or other case outcome without reviewing your case. They also will not proclaim you to be “eligible” for compensation in advance.
Skip the Cold Callers. If you’re contacted by an individual claiming to represent a federal agency, military installation, or law firm you’ve not dealt with, and you’re asked for personal details, hang up. Same goes for unsolicited emails or texts – clicking on links could download malicious software to your device, or could point you toward websites designed to harvest your personal data.
MOAA Can Help
Check out the following MOAA.org resources for facing down frauds of all types:
- From our financial and benefits expert: Protect Yourself From These 5 Common Fraud Schemes
- Three-part series: Don’t Be Scammed
- Recorded webinars (available to Premium and Life members): An Overview of Scams and Frauds | Outsmart the Scammers: How to Spot and Avoid Financial Fraud | Protecting Yourself From Cybercrime and Scams
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