On May 19, Armed Forces Day, the Better Business Bureau of Minnesota and North Dakota launched a local Military Line® program designed to help Minnesota and North Dakota service members and their families make wise financial decisions and avoid scams. Military consumers and their families are heavily targeted for: predatory lending, identity theft, auto loans at punitive rates, and questionable investments. In the past two years, over 100,000 complaints from the military community have been reported to BBBs across the U.S.
Supported by an established national network with a century of expertise in marketplace knowledge, the mission of the BBB Military Line is to improve financial readiness and consumer education for service members, their families, and the military community.
"We are excited and honored to offer this program to such an important part of our communities," said Dana Badgerow, President and CEO of the BBB of Minnesota and North Dakota. "You would think that scammers would steer clear of those who serve, as well as their families. Sadly, that's not the case, as these consumers are among those targeted most by scams."
Nationally, the BBB has offered a Military Line program since 2004. Disturbing patterns that they've tracked include: 1) Advance-fee loans, car-buying scams, and predatory financing; 2) Scammers using job search sites to find victims and; 3) Scammers masquerading as reputable businesses or charities.
BBB Military Line educational workshops offered to Minnesota and North Dakota military personnel and their families include: Smart Consumer (teen and adult); Deals for Wheels (teen and adult); How to Buy a Home; Investing for Retirement; and Scams, Schemes, and ID Theft. Free resources to the military community will be provided via these five components:
- Education - BBB staff will visit military installations to offer financial literacy classes to service members.
- Outreach - Educational pamphlets will be distributed at community fairs, conferences and other events. Staffers will talk to service members and listen to their concerns.
- Information - The resources page on the BBB's website offers articles, links, consumer alerts and free consumer guides customized for military personnel and their families. We will also make information available via Facebook and Twitter.
- Data Collection - Continuous analysis of BBB data helps identify the evolving needs of the military community in the marketplace.
- Complaint and Dispute Resolution - Filing a complaint with the BBB helps military consumers resolve disputes and also aids the BBB in identifying trends and issues affecting the military community.
In addition to the BBB's national Military Line program, the BBB of Minnesota and North Dakota joins 21 other local BBBs who offer this service locally. Vicki Lokken-Paverud, the BBB's Military Outreach Coordinator, is responsible for bringing Military Line resources to the Minnesota and North Dakota military community. She can be reached at 651-695-2428 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
The stated pillars of local BBB military outreach are:
- Develop relationships with military installation leadership
- Teach financial readiness workshops
- Present at military installation information meetings and gatherings
- Participate in financial readiness and community fairs and conferences
- Partner with local military affairs organizations