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Experts talk about financial protection

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By LYNSIE DICKERSON

Gold Standard Staff Writer

lynsie.m.dickerson.ctr@mail.mil

Consumer financial issues and programs were the topics of discussion when Holly Petraeus, assistant director of Consumer Financial Protection Bureau's Office of Service-member Affairs, and Jack Conway, attorney general of Kentucky, visited Fort Knox Tuesday.

“I’m a lifetime military family member, so the wellbeing of military families is obviously a paramount interest to me,” Petraeus said in an interview prior to the town hall meeting. “I’m very happy to be able to work on the financial issues that impact (military families) through my role at the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.”

Conway echoed Petraeus’ interest in helping military families.

“Making certain that our service members are treated fairly when it comes to consumer protection issues is very important to me personally and it’s very important to the office of the attorney general,” Conway said.

During the town hall, Conway and Petraeus discussed ways Soldiers are targeted, smart financial decisions, how to avoid fraud and scams, and they answered questions. They also encouraged Soldiers and their Families to file complaints if consumer issues arise.

Conway and Petraeus also addressed the issues they most commonly see affect consumers.

“Unfortunately, our service members are disproportionately targeted because of their access to federal GI Bill benefits, so we’ve been very strong in taking on those particular companies,” Conway said prior to the town hall.

For-profit colleges, for example, have been targeting service members more than any other population since they typically have “fairly generous” benefits when it comes to education, and because they’re not subject to some of the rules that govern how much federal money can come into certain programs at for-profit colleges, Conway said.

Payday lenders who charge extremely high interest rates are also common, he said.

Credit reporting problems and unfair debt collection practices are some of the issues that Petraeus said she sees the most.

“It should make all of us angry, really, that people who have stepped away from their civilian lives to serve our country—either on active duty or the National Guard, the reserves—should be targeted while they’re wearing uniform by scammers,” Petraeus said. “I think it’s outrageous.”

One consumer re- source on Fort Knox that’s available to Sold-iers and their Family members is the Finan-cial Readiness Program.

“Here at Fort Knox, the financial readiness department is always looking for things in reference to consumer issues that affect our Soldiers and their Family members,” said Shannon Wilson, Financial Readiness Program coordinator.

Staff Sgt. Anthony Johnson of the Fort Knox Garrison Command is just one of the people who have been helped by the program.

“It began with me needing to do my security clearance,” Johnson said. “I went to (the financial readiness) program and they showed me what was on my credit, how it got on there, and how to get it off. There were a lot of things on there that shouldn’t have been on there, so they helped me alleviate that.”

Johnson added that a program like this is necessary to take care of Soldiers.

This year, Fort Knox’s Army Community Ser-vice Financial Readiness Program has helped 500 Soldiers and their Fam-ily members with issues related to credit reports, identity theft and invest-ment products, accord-ing to a press release from the office of the attorney general.