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Unscrupulous Financial Firms Target the Military

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Wednesday, June 7, 2017   

PHOENIX - Just days before Congress votes on whether to gut the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, a new report says shady financial firms continue to target service members.

According to the report from the Arizona Public Interest Research Group and the Frontier Group, almost a third of the 44,000 complaints to the CFPB from service members since the agency's inception in 2010 involve harassment by debt collectors. Diane Brown, executive director of AZ PIRG, said payday and subprime mortgage lenders cluster around military bases, targeting young service members. For them, she said, bad debt is especially hazardous because it affects their ability to get security clearances.

"If their focus is on protecting the country," she said, "one of the last things they should need to think about is being a potential target for an unscrupulous financial situation."

The U.S. House of Representatives is set to vote today or Thursday on House Resolution 10, which would bar the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau from educating consumers, eliminate its database that allows the public to identify bad actors, and take away its independent status. Supporters of the legislation have claimed the agency has been too aggressive.

Brown said more than 1,200 Arizonans in the military have filed complaints, which puts the state in the top 12 for complaints per capita. The CFPB has stepped in on behalf of many more nationwide.

"At least 7,000 service members have received either direct monetary relief or other kinds of relief," she said, "like stopping debt collection harassment or providing mortgage options to help a service member avoid foreclosure."

Nationwide, the report said, the CFPB has taken 12 major enforcement actions to benefit service members or veterans. Its agents have secured relief for 29 million consumers overall, worth almost $12 billion.

The AZ PIRG report is online at arizonapirg.org, and the text of HR 10 is at congress.gov.


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