Today is Military Consumer Protection Day, and the Federal Trade Commission and other organizations are raising awareness that those serving our country need to also be wary when guarding their personal finances and information.
While all consumers are potential targets for fraudsters, the military community is particularly susceptible to certain scams, Charles Harwood, former FTC deputy director, said in a November Senate committee hearing on consumer protection issues facing service members. That's in part because military families relocate frequently and because many service members are earning paychecks and living on their own for the first time.
A report from the FTC found that the organization received more than 65,000 complaints from military members or their families in 2013, with identity theft and imposter scams leading the list of complaints followed by issues with debt collection.
"No one should be victimized by financial abuse, particularly the military," Gail Cunningham, spokeswoman for the National Foundation for Credit Counseling, says in a statement. "One way to avoid financial abuse is through financial education, as an educated consumer is always a better consumer, one more equipped to identify fraud or deception and make wise financial decisions."
The NFCC surveyed active-duty military personnel and found that 55 percent feel not at all or only somewhat prepared to meet a financial emergency. It also found that 60 percent have had to utilize nontraditional lenders to meet their financial needs.
"Stressful situations can result in poor choices, with decisions often made out of desperation," Cunningham says. "To avoid this, service members should take advantage of the opportunity to improve their financial skills, thus putting themselves in a better position to face any unplanned financial circumstance that comes their way."
The FTC and partner organizations have developed a website, www.military.ncpw.gov, that aims to be the "first line of defense" against fraud for military families. It offers a number of free resources to help manage money and protect against fraudsters.
Bankrate also has a number of financial resources for military families, whether it's tax credit help for military families, resources on life insurance and other topics, or basic tips offering financial help for military members.
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