Better Business Bureau: Agency helps military families with financial issues

June 27, 2013 

Teaching troops to make sound decisions in battle is done in boot camp. Disciplining them on sound economic decisions is left to the school of hard knocks.

That's why giving them an outlet to air their complaints is important, says Holly Petraeus. Petraeus is an assistant director of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB), heading up the Office of Servicemember Affairs.

Organizations like CFPB and Better Business Bureau, allow military families - not just military troops - a place for their voices to be heard and to protect themselves from unscrupulous businesses.

"We want to hear from active-duty, Guard, reserve, retirees, family members, and veterans - the whole military community," says Petraeus. "And we want you to know you can contact us with questions or complaints about financial products and services."

Established under the Dodd-Frank Act, CFPB works to make regulations and guidance clear and concise for troops. Petraeus worked with BBB to set up the Military Alliance program several years ago to help troop families.

"We learn about their financial challenges by traveling to military installations across the country, talking directly to service members, veterans and their families and by monitoring the complaints they submit to us, as those complaints can show the pain points for military families in their financial dealings," she says.

Those pain points include:

• High priced military loans. Advertisements for loans that promise a guarantee, instant approval or no credit check will often come with hidden fees and extremely high interest rates. Legitimate lenders will never guarantee a loan before you apply and loans that require an upfront fee are likely a scam.

• Veterans' benefits buyout plans. This buyout plan will offer cash payment in exchange for a disabled veteran's future benefits or pension payments. The cash amount is only about 30 percent to 40 percent of what the veteran is entitled to receive.

• Misleading car sales. Websites posting classified ads will offer false discounts for military personnel. Upfront fees will be required via wire transfer, or the vehicle will have problems after purchase.

• Expensive life insurance. Troops are often targets of high-pressured sales pitches for unnecessary, expensive life insurance policies. Solicitors may make false statements regarding the benefits that these policies offer.

• Identity theft. A caller claims to work for the local court system and states the service member didn't show up for jury duty and now has a warrant out for his/her arrest. When the victim says they never got a summons, the caller will ask for a credit card number or Social Security number to clear up the matter.

Troops and their families can call EFPB at (855) 411-2372 or at BBB.org.

The 2013 All Veterans Welcome Home will be from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday at the Boise VA Medical Center, 500 W. Fort St., Boise. It features a free BBQ, displays, free raffle prizes, games and kid activities.

Robb Hicken: 947-2115

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