As part of National Consumer Protection Week, Attorney General Peter F. Kilmartin reminds men and women who serve in our military of the consumer protections and rights for themselves and their families.
“Today’s military families face many common consumer challenges as well as the additional stress associated with frequent separation. To ease with the difficulty of being away from a loved one who is in harm’s way, there are many resources for military families to help navigate the consumer fraud minefield,” said Attorney General Peter F. Kilmartin. “We owe a great deal of gratitude to the men and women who serve this country and it’s important that we try to protect them while they are protecting us.”
Active duty service members, reservists and members of the National Guard while on active duty have access to a variety of consumer protections and programs. For example, the Service Members Civil Relief Act (SCRA) suspends certain civil obligations to enable service members to devote full attention to duty and to relieve stress on family members of those deployed. The protections begins on the date of entering active military duty and generally terminates within 30-90 days after the date of discharge from active duty.
Some examples of obligations that active duty service members may be protected against are outstanding credit card debt, mortgage payments, pending trials, taxes and termination of a lease. Interest rates on mortgage payments for active duty military service members can be no more than 6% according to the SCRA.
In addition, mortgages are not subject to the delinquency process, including foreclosures. For more information on the SCRA, please visit www.militaryonesource.com or call 1-800-342-9647.
The Federal Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) is another form of protection for active duty service members. This Act provides active duty service members the opportunity to place an “active duty alert” on their credit reports in an effort to reduce identity theft during periods of deployment. The alert requires a financial institution or business to verify that the person applying for credit is not an imposter. The “active duty alert” stays in effect for one year unless the service member or his or her personal representative requests that it be removed before the year expires. Military service members can contact any of the following three national credit reporting agencies to place the “active duty alert:”
Experian 1-888-EXPERIAN (1-888-397-3742) www.experian. com
Equifax 1-800-525-6285 www.equifax.com
TransUnion 1-800-680-7289 www.transunion.com
Also, JP Morgan Chase recently announced that it is restoring a voluntary program to defer student loan payments by all active duty service members. The deferment is not automatic. Chase will only honor the deferment if it receives a request from the service member. To obtain the deferment, service members should call Chase at 866-361-8020.
The Better Business Bureau is also a great resource for military families and has created the BBB Military Line, www.military.bbb.org, offering consumer education and advocacy to service members and their families.
Five service-specific sites contain current military-related consumer news as well as links to local BBBs and other sites with useful consumer information:
www.army.bbb.org www.navy.bbb.org www.airforce.bbb.org www.marinecorps.bbb.org www.coastguard.bbb.org
Users may request reports, file complaints, and sign up for a custom consumer newsletter.
If you believe you are a victim of consumer fraud, please contact the Consumer Protection Unit at the Department of Rhode Island Attorney General at (401) 274-4400. You can download a consumer complaint by visiting our website at www.riag.ri.gov. You can also email us at firstname.lastname@example.org. Please be sure to mention that you are active duty military personnel, a military dependant or a veteran.
About the Office of the Attorney General Consumer Protection Unit The Office of the Attorney General Consumer Protection Unit investigates and mediates consumer complaints concerning unfair and unlawful business practices and misleading advertising arising out of alleged violations of the Deceptive Trade Practices Act. If groups of people are victimized by a deceptive trade practice, this office may file in the Superior Court a civil investigative demand, which is a formal investigation. In appropriate cases, a lawsuit to stop the illegal business practice may be initiated.
Apart from carrying out its statutory responsibilities, the Unit also provides information and referral services to the general public. Consumers are directed to the appropriate governmental or private agencies for help in answering specialized questions or resolving disputes that are not within the Unit's jurisdiction.