KAISERSLAUTERN, Germany -- Holly Petraeus, assistant director of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau for Service Member Affairs, paid a visit to the service members, families and civilians in the Kaiserslautern Military Community to broaden the reach of the CFPB.

CFPB is an independent federal agency whose mission is to ensure financial institutions support consumers honestly and to enforce 18 different federal consumer financial laws. In addition, CFPB has a special military office to support service members and their families.

"We provide financial education and monitor military complaints. We have received over 14,000 complaints from service members to date, and seen approximately $100 million returned back to service members. For American consumers as a whole, the agency's settlement actions have returned approximately a billion dollars," Petraeus said.

"As a law enforcement agency, we can file charges against providers of consumer financial products that do not follow the law in their dealings with service members," Petraeus said.

She stressed the importance of not signing costly contracts, which could affect your credit report if you are unable to keep up the payments. A negative credit report may affect a service member's career drastically or job opportunity if you are transiting out of the military.

She also had a suggestion for service members who entered the military with pre-existing debt.
"Service members are eligible for the Service Members Civil Relief Act. They should contact their loan holders, provide a copy of the orders calling them to active duty and ask that their interest rate on pre-service loans be reduced to six percent while they are on active duty," Petraeus said.

Petraeus is very passionate about protecting service members and wants to ensure military families are well taken care of.

"I grew up in the military community as well as married into it, and it upsets me when I see service members sign terrible contracts and pay ridiculous prices," Petraeus said. "If I can work to prevent some of these bad practices, then I'm happy to do it."

For more information, resources or for financial help, visit the CFPB's website at www.consumerfinance.gov.