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Family Matters Blog: Mrs. Petraeus Seeks Financial Feedback From Troops

By Elaine Wilson
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, March 3, 2011 – I was a young airman when I fell for my first scam. I was seeking a loan to purchase some furniture – my credit cards were all maxed – and spotted an ad in the local newspaper.It drew me like a beacon, advertising quick and easy loans to people with shaky credit histories. I figured I could score some cash with minimal stress and pay it back with a military allotment.

I called and gave them my personal information and then was told, since my credit score wasn’t the best, that I’d have to send in a lump sum before I’d be granted the loan. I don’t recall the exact amount, but it was at least $500.I sent the money off and waited to hear from the loan company -- and waited, and waited. After a few weeks, I called the number again and it was disconnected. No loan and my money was long gone.

I beat myself up over that incident but eventually chalked it up to a lesson learned. I would go on to chase money down several other financial rabbit holes over the years, but along the way, I gained some wisdom and a new outlook on financial well-being.It seems as if shady creditors and scammers are more prevalent now than ever before, with the Internet serving as a hotbed of scamming opportunity. But fortunately, the government is stepping up measures to combat this trend.

This summer, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau will formally stand up to “make sure consumers have the information they need to choose the consumer financial products and services that are best for them,” according to its website. 

Within that bureau, the Office of Servicemember Affairs also will stand up to educate and protect military members and their families from financial setbacks.

The office will be headed up by Holly Petraeus, wife of Army Gen. David H. Petraeus, commander of U.S. troops in Afghanistan.

I spoke with Mrs. Petraeus earlier this week about her goals for the office, which aims to educate and inform troops and their families so they can make wise financial decisions.

“If I can say that the military is an educated population who can recognize the red flags of a bad deal, then I’ll really feel I’ve been able to make something happen,” she told me.

Unfortunately, military members often are vulnerable target for scammers, Mrs. Petraeus said, since they’re in a population with a guaranteed paycheck. They also prey on the military culture that requires members to pay their debts.

“That gives them a stick to shake at the borrower,” she said. “If you don’t pay, I’ll get you in trouble. That makes them vulnerable to those bullying tactics used by a creditor.”

Mrs. Petraeus plans to travel to military installations across the country to learn about the financial issues military members and their families are facing – such as debt, scams, foreclosure and mortgage issues -- and to solicit suggestions on how to better help them.

In the meantime, she encouraged people to submit their financial issues and concerns via e-mail to military@treasury.gov.

For more on my interview with Mrs. Petraeus, see "Holly Petraeus Aims to Protect Troops' Finances."

I’d also like to hear from you about your financial lessons learned. By sharing this type of information, you can help other military families from also having to learn their lessons the hard way.

 

To comment on this blog, or read other posts, visit the Family Matters website. 

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