Protect, Secure your Financial well-being

By Antwaun ParrishJuly 27, 2023

Financial well-being is a pillar of overall readiness within the military community and a key tenet of strengthening the economic security in the force.

Military Consumer Month is observed every July as an annual reminder for Service members and military Families to protect their financial well-being through awareness and education.

MCM promotes access to no-cost information and tools that focus on understanding legal protections, avoiding scams, and developing positive consumer habits that support financial resiliency.

The Army joined DoD, the Federal Trade Commission and the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau in promoting MCM throughout the month. These agencies support financial literacy training and provide relevant topic-specific financial resources for service members and their Families.

“The way I look at it, every month should be Military Consumer Month,” said Robyn Mroszczyk, Army Financial Education Program Manager. “July is targeted as an opportunity to do some focal messaging to be able to help our service members and their Families. It also provides a heightened view of the different impacts such as identity theft and scam that specifically target service members.”

The objective of MCM and the Financial Education Program throughout the year is to help service members and their Families:

·      Develop an understanding of how to protect themselves against misleading consumer practices in both the digital world and the real world.

·      Recognize and avoid common scam practices, especially those that target the military community and what steps to take if they are a victim of a scam.

·      Identify personal spending triggers and how advertisers encourage them to influence spending habits.

·      Learn how to make informed, intentional major purchases within their spending plan.

·      Understand consumer rights for service members and Families under the Military Lending Act (MLA), Servicemembers Civil Relief Act (SCRA), Truth in Lending Act, Fair Credit Reporting Act and Fair Debt Collection Practices Act.

Scammers understand that the military community is unique--due to frequent movement across the globe it places service members at a more vulnerable state specifically when using payment apps. This had been found through the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau’s Office of Servicemember Affairs Annual Report. The report found that:

·      Servicemembers submit complaints related to payment apps at a higher percentage than the general population. In 2022, service members submitted more than 1,100 payment app complaints, one of the fastest-growing complaint types submitted to the CFPB.

·      Members of the military are more susceptible to identity theft, which can heighten the risk of unauthorized access to their payment app accounts. In 2022, active duty servicemembers reported almost 38,000 cases of identity theft to the Federal Trade Commission.

·      Servicemembers report serious financial harm from scams and fraud when using payment apps. Often during a permanent change of duty station, servicemembers face the need to secure housing, a new automobile, or daycare during a short window, which often requires them to conduct more online transactions. Servicemembers and their families reported that being scammed online using payment apps can result in serious issues – jeopardized housing, lost life savings, cascading financial distress, emotional distress, and embarrassment.

·      Complaints suggest that the companies and financial institutions that provide payment apps often fail to provide timely and substantive resolutions to servicemembers. In the complaints submitted to CFPB, even when they have a path to recovering lost money, servicemembers stated that they had trouble getting in contact with a customer representative. When they did get in contact, the resolution process was tedious and slow, and coordination with multiple parties was challenging and often failed to address their concerns.

“There are legal protections that are geared just for the military which came about due to the increase in complaints from service members and their identity being compromised,” said Karolin Guadarrama, a financial education program specialist.

Both Mroszczyk and Guadarrama provided tips and ways that Soldiers and their Families can use to protect their identity and financial state.

·      Free Credit Monitoring

·      Two Factor authentication

·      Change passwords often

·      Report if something happens that compromising your identity

“Credit monitoring is our first line of defense,” said Mroszczyk.

Mroszczyk states that a lot of service members weren’t aware of the activity occurring on their credit until they had the need to check their report. They would often find inaccurate information which led to the increasing awareness and offering free credit monitoring for all service members.

“This can lead to problems down the road for security clearances, because financial considerations are actually one of the leading causes in the Army for clearance adjudication,” said Mroszczyk.

She went on to state that it’s important to report when your accounts are compromised and recommends reporting this through the Federal Trade Commission.

If Soldiers and their Families need assistance or additional information, there are financial readiness staff at almost every military installation.

Guadarrama urges service members and their Families to be careful and vigilant when dealing with money and making purchases.

“Be organized, because the more you know, the more you are in control of your own affairs, and there is less of a chance to be compromised,” said Guadarrama.

Additional resources and information on financial readiness programs and tool is available at the Financial Frontline website: