The approach of Memorial Day reminds thoughtful Americans of those who serve in uniform. It’s a time of reflection about the sacrifice that many have made for the rest of us. The Better Business Bureau honors the memory of those who served our nation and remains mindful of the needs of the families of military members who continue to serve.
Because current military members and their families can face difficult and unique challenges, in 2004 the Council of Better Business Bureaus created the Military Line program. The program provides financial literacy and consumer protection resources that are tailored to the specific needs and situations that military families may find themselves in.
Data collection and info distribution
BBBs across the nation are well situated to collect data about trends that can adversely effect consumer protection of military families. This could include the latest scams and disadvantageous financial transactions.
Businesses that utilize questionable tactics are reported to the BBB. Such information is valuable to military families who are often targeted for ID theft, predatory lending, questionable investments, employment scams and rip-off rent-to-own schemes. Young families that are enduring financial stress and inexperienced in the complicated world of finance can benefit greatly from information about companies’ backgrounds and the number of complaints about them.
A good place to start your introduction to the Military Line is “Trusted Scout”, the BBB’s monthly newsletter for military families. Find it by typing “Trusted Scout” into your search engine. Alternatively, you may search for the BBB Military Line Facebook page, where you will find links to the newsletter.
Here is a partial list of some of the topics recently addressed in Trusted Scout:
• Making decisions about living on or off base.
• Long-term planning for your family’s financial needs.
• Transitioning to a new base.
• VA loans for Reservists and National Guard Members.
• Fake debt collectors, sweepstakes cons and various current scams.
Beware of these pitfalls for military families
Speaking of scams and cons, here are some that target military members and their families:
• Phone calls asking that you update your information for the VA. This is always a scammer attempting to steal your private information. Veterans Affairs never calls to request information updates over the phone.
• Instant-approval military loans. They have excessive interest rates and hidden fees. Up-front fees are a red flag for a scam.
• Buyout plans for veterans’ benefits. They pay you only 30 -40% of what you are entitled to.
• Discounted car sales to military members usually require upfront wire transfers of fees and leave you with inferior vehicles.
• Life insurance policies that target military members can come with false benefit promises. High-pressure sales are a sure scam tip-off.
• Fake rental property scams. Ads that promise military discounts often have fake or stolen photos and require a wire money transfer for a key. You will get nothing in return.
• Fake jury duty summons. A caller that claims to be from the local court system says a service member didn’t show for jury duty and has a warrant out for their arrest. When you dispute it they will ask for a credit card number or Social Security number to “clear it up.”
The challenges can be numerous for those who serve and for their families. Arm yourself with current information to keep scammers and financial hardships at bay. If you have questions about BBB’s Military Line, contact your Better Business Bureau at (800) 856-2417, or visit bbbinc.org.