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CHIPS Articles: New Military Task Force seeks to educate and empower military consumers

New Military Task Force seeks to educate and empower military consumers
By CHIPS Magazine - September 26, 2017
The Federal Trade Commission launched a web page highlighting the work of the agency’s new Military Task Force, which is aimed at identifying the unique needs of military consumers.

Military personnel, veterans, and their families face unique challenges that can affect them as consumers. The FTC has created a Military Task Force to focus on identifying the particular needs of military consumers and developing initiatives to empower service members, veterans, and their families more effectively. The Military Task Force, comprised of a cross-section of agency representatives, is part of the FTC’s ongoing and collaborative effort to provide resources for the military community.

In 2016, there were more than 100,000 consumer complaints from service members, their families, military retirees and veterans, according to data compiled by the FTC. About two-thirds of the complaints were from retirees and veterans. The top complaints from service members by category were impostor scams, identity theft and aggressive debt collection.

Top scams for 2016 included debt collection, such as scams for mortgage debt relief; imposter scams; identity theft; and scams involving telephone and mobile services; shop-at-home and catalog sales; prizes, sweepstakes and lotteries; banks and other lenders; and auto-related complaints.

“Service members devote their lives to protecting us, so it’s incumbent on us to protect them,” said FTC Acting Chairman Maureen K. Ohlhausen. “This task force will work on identifying the needs of military consumers and work on several initiatives to address those needs.”

Service members, like all consumers, are potential targets for fraudsters. Certain scams are more likely to target the military community because families relocate frequently and because many young service members are living on their own and earning a paycheck for the first time. Some scammers take advantage of concerns unique to service members, such as the threat of disciplinary action or risk to their security clearance for nonpayment of a financial obligation, which can affect their ability to continue to serve.

This year, the FTC hosted two workshops in coordination with the military community. The first event this past July in San Antonio examined financial issues and scams that can affect military consumers, including active duty service members in all branches and veterans. The second event earlier this month in Los Angeles with state and local partners focused on training military attorneys and financial advisors, law enforcement, prosecution agencies, and consumer protection officials to identify, prevent, and respond to consumer fraud and other issues affecting service members and their families.

The workshops included discussions about resources available to service members; auto purchasing, leasing and financing; student and other lending, including installment credit practices; debt collection; financial literacy and capability, including how to recover from identity theft and financial resources that are available to service members; and how to avoid scams.

Last year, the FTC unveiled Military Consumer, a revamped and mobile-friendly financial readiness website for military personnel, veterans, their families, personal financial managers and others who work with the military community — another major initiative featured on the new task force website. Military Consumer also reaches out to the military community through its Facebook and Twitter pages.

For more information, visit: ftc.gov/militarytaskforce.

The Federal Trade Commission works to promote competition, and protect and educate consumers. You can learn more about consumer topics and file a consumer complaint online or by calling 1-877-FTC-HELP (382-4357).

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