DOD Helps Military Families Avoid Money Scams
By Terri Moon Cronk
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, July 1, 2013 While dodging financial scams seems to have become a part of life, Defense Department officials have measures to protect the military community from such circumstances, a senior Pentagon official said in a recent interview.
Scamming incidents in the military parallel those in the civilian community, Barbara Thompson, director of the Defense Department’s office of family policy, children and youth, told American Forces Press Service.
But scammers might target military families because of service members’ dependable incomes and frequent moves, opening them up to potential scams that can affect their financial readiness when renting or buying a home and securing car loans, she added.
“It’s really important that we look at our entire [financial] readiness campaign as a way to empower our service members and their families to have the flexibility to meet the goals and dreams of their future,” she said.
It’s vital for military families to do their research and build their awareness against scams, she added, and myriad resources to help in this endeavor are available on and off military installations.
“You may decide to do a move on your own and find someone who doesn’t have liability insurance, or doesn’t deliver your household goods to your residence [and instead] goes off with them,” Thompson said.
She also warned against house closure, auto loan and credit and debit card scams. “Sometimes, they look official and as though they’re sponsored by a government agency, but it’s deceit,” she added.
Installation legal assistance officers can help when such issues arise, and certified financial counselors can provide support, guidance and advice at family assistance centers on military installations, she said. The counselors know the community and are likely to be aware of less-than-scrupulous vendors and service providers, she said.
The Military OneSource website offers a wealth of resources such as financial counseling and tip sheets on how to be a good consumer and avoid pitfalls, Thompson said.
DOD also has federal partners in the battle against financial scams, such as the Federal Trade Commission’s Scam Watch, and the Treasury Department’s Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, where one can register a complaint that will be investigated, Thompson said.
The Better Business Bureau Military Line compiles information on businesses that are less than reputable, Thompson said, and installation commanders also have the ability to put unscrupulous businesses on a list, she added.
Getting references from friends and colleagues and staying away from businesses that have negative consumer feedback are important steps, she said. Using the installation’s credit union or bank also will help to ensure good choices in the community, she noted.
If a military family does find itself to be a victim of a scam, DOD also offers resources to help.
Consulting with the legal assistance officer on the installation not only helps with recourse, Thompson said, but also advises the installation of a business that’s not reputable to protect other service members and their families.
“You learn a lesson, but you also make sure somebody else is not taken advantage of,” she added.
“The bottom line is you have to be a smart and savvy consumer,” Thompson said. “You need to really think about your purchases, your purchasing power, and do your due diligence to make sure you’re getting the right information and the right product for the money you’re going to spend.”