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Media > Newsletters > Consumer Advocate > July 2015 > July 15: Celebrate Military Consumer Protection Day

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July 15: Celebrate Military Consumer Protection Day

In recognition of Military Consumer Protection Day (July 15), the Ohio Attorney General’s Office is providing information about consumer rights and scams targeting service members and their families.
Unfortunately, a number of factors make service members and military families particularly vulnerable to scams. Members of the military receive steady paychecks, and many members face frequent deployments and relocations. As a result, scam artists often target military families.
In 2014, the Ohio Attorney General’s Office received 792 complaints filed by active service members or their immediate family regarding a wide range of consumer issues, including motor vehicles, debt collection, and identity theft. In an effort to resolve these complaints, the office offers an informal dispute resolution process. During this process, a complaint specialist will work with the business and the consumer to try to help resolve the complaint.
One of the common scams targeting service members and their families is called “phishing.” Phishing occurs when a scammer unexpectedly contacts a potential victim, pretends to be a trusted person or entity, and requests personal information. Scammers often use this tactic to gather information needed to commit identity theft. To avoid falling victim to this scam and identity theft, never provide personal information to someone who has contacted you unexpectedly.
A recent example of a phishing attack targeted active service members and military retirees through an email pretending to be from the United Services Automobile Association (USAA). The email contained the subject line “Deposit Posted.” It contained a file that, once opened, would provide access to personal information. Other attacks directed at U.S. military installations use official-looking emails that appear to come from a senior officer or other authority figure to instruct the recipient to download and install malicious software.
To reduce the chance of becoming a victim of identity theft, active duty members can place an “active duty alert” on their credit report by contacting each of the three credit reporting agencies. This will inform each credit reporting agency that the service member is currently deployed and so should not be opening new lines of credit for a period of time. If an identity thief attempts to open a line of credit in the service member’s name, the service member is notified immediately.
Service members also have rights related to payday loans. A payday loan refers to a cash advance secured by a personal check or electronic transfer. These short-term loans often carry large fees and high interest rates. By law, payday loans offered to service members and their dependents cannot exceed the annual percentage rate of 36 percent.
Lastly, military members and families who donate to charities designed to help veterans should be wary of “affinity scams.” In this type of scam, a con artist either pretends to represent a trustworthy organization or claims to be a veteran to convince victims to donate money to the cause. Although the scammer claims the money will help veterans, it usually will benefit only the scammer. Before donating to any charity, do your research by contacting the Ohio Attorney General’s Office and the Better Business Bureau
Even if you are not a member of the military, you should be aware that scammers sometimes contact potential victims, claim that they are in the military and need money to get out of trouble. Similar to the popular “grandparent scam,” scammers are impersonating military members to try to get victims to send money.
Consumers who believe they have encountered a scam, unfair business practice, or identity theft should contact the Ohio Attorney General’s Office at 800-282-0515 or