Veteran family of 5 has disability check hijacked

Jonathan Kaupanger
August 27, 2018 - 4:04 pm

Dreamstime

Categories: 

UPDATE: Connecting Vets is happy to report that VA has reached out to the Terry's and has promised to fix this issue, either by the end of this week or early next week.

Army veteran Keith Terry has Post-Traumatic Stress and can’t work. He’s relied on his VA disability check to help support his family for almost 17 years. This month the nearly $4,000 check is being deposited into a checking account, as usual, only not into his account.

On August 20, Nicole and Keith Terry received an email explaining that their eBenefits password had changed.  Since they hadn’t changed any information at the site, they thought it was a fake or phishing email.  So they did what informed veterans should do. After a web search to verify the correct EBenefits phone number, they called to see what was going on. 

VA told the Terrys' that somebody hacked their eBenefits account. “It came up that all my information had been changed,” says Keith.  “My phone numbers, banking information...  The banking part of it, we were looking at it and instead of [the Terrys' bank] it was going to Wells Fargo.”

Someone at eBenefits helped the Terrys' change their password and challenge questions and locked down their account.  They were told to file a police report – which they did that day but the reality of the situation hit hard. 

“The VA pretty much is saying it’s all in my hands,” says Keith. “They’re investigating it, but that doesn’t do anything.  I asked them how am I going to feed my family and they gave me some numbers, and that ain’t worth shit either.” 

According to VA, nothing has been hacked.  In a statement to Connecting Vets, a VA spokesperson said that on occasion they’ve learned of individual accounts that have been fraudulently accessed, but that the eBenefits system hadn’t been compromised. “There are currently 7,295,018 active eBenefits accounts. Of those, accounts are fraudulently accessed at a rate of 0.0119259 percent, which is well below the private industry standard,” said VA spokesperson. 

It may be below industry standards, but it is enough to get the attention of several senators. “According to VA, 870 accounts have been compromised so far in 2018,” said the lawmakers in a July 25 letter to then-Acting VA Secretary Peter O’Rourke. “While that is a small number, we must be concerned about the impact on every veteran and family member when they lose even temporary access to their compensation funds.”

The Terrys' now are fighting for their benefits and to put food on the table for their three children. Through her own investigative work, Nicole uncovered the bank account and routing number for the fake account. She says they just needed VA to call Wells Fargo Bank and cancel the deposit.  “That check has been going into our bank account for 16 – 17 years!  It’s never been changed, I thought that was a safeguard,” says Nicole Terry.   

If you think you’ve been scammed, contact VA’s Identity Safety Service. The helpline, (855) 578-5492, is open Monday – Friday from 8 am to 8 pm.  You can contact them through email at vaidtheft@va.gov

For more information on how you can protect yourself or to just see what VA is doing to help, check out the Identity Theft Prevention website too. After calling VA and your local police, immediately call your state’s attorney general and let them know what happened.  Then you should also file a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission.

                Contact us about this article or share your story at gethelp@connectingvets.com