Commonwealth of Virginia
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ATTORNEY GENERAL HERRING RECOGNIZES MILITARY CONSUMER PROTECTION DAY
~ Each year, Military Consumer Protection Day focuses on servicemembers' consumer concerns ~
Richmond (July 16, 2014)-In recognition of July 16 as the second Military Consumer Protection Day, Attorney General Mark R. Herring highlighted some of the unique consumer protection and financial challenges that servicemembers face, as well as rights and resources available to active duty, reserve and National Guard personnel. Virginia is the proud home to more than 800,000 veterans, meaning more than one in ten Virginians has served our nation in the military. Today, the Virginia Attorney General's Consumer Protection Section is joining with attorneys general and consumer protection agencies across the country to focus on the needs of these brave men and women and their families while deployed and once they return home.
"The last thing our servicemembers and veterans need to worry about is whether financial predators will try to take advantage of deployments or relocations to target them or their families," said Attorney General Herring. "My office is committed to protecting all Virginians from predatory and illegal business practices, but we will pay a particular focus to those who target military personnel or veterans. If you have been a victim, or if you believe someone is trying to take advantage of you, please reach out to my consumer protection team as soon as possible. We can investigate claims and give people the tools they need to protect themselves from fraud, identify theft, and other scams. We're here to serve and help you."
Members of the military, their families and veterans may find that scammers and dishonest businesses will try to take advantage of them and target them for fraud or and scams. It could be something as simple as promising a "military discount" on housing or other purchases without providing those discounts, or it could be something much more serious, such as a predatory lending scheme or attempted foreclosure or repossession.
Provisions at the state and federal level, including the federal Military Lending Act, protect military servicemembers and their families from potentially dangerous financial arrangements. Most notably, Virginia law prohibits payday lenders from making loans to members of the military services of the United States as well as their spouses and dependents.
The federal Servicemembers Civil Relief Act (SCRA) provides several important protections to those on active duty. Those protections include:
- Debt protections: Annual interest rates for debts incurred before entering military service cannot exceed 6 % while serving.
- Prevention of repossession of property. Property purchased by a servicemember after entering service cannot be repossessed for nonpayment, or the contract terminated or rescinded for any breach without a valid court order.
- Eviction prevention. A servicemember and his or her dependents cannot be evicted from their primary residence for nonpayment of rent without a court order, no matter what the rental agreement or local laws say. This protection applies to residences for which the monthly rent is not more than $3,217.81 per month. If the ability of a servicemember or his or her dependents to pay rent is "materially affected" by military service, a court may grant a 90 day delay or adjust terms to preserve the interests of all parties.
- Mortgage protections: Annual interest rates on a mortgage incurred before active duty may not exceed 6 % during military service and up to one year after service ends, and servicemembers are entitled to a stay of any sale, foreclosure, or seizure of property, when ability to comply with the obligation is materially affected by military service.
- Contract/lease protections: Servicemembers may terminate certain residential or vehicle leases without penalty because of active duty service and some cell phone contracts can be terminated without penalty, depending on the distance and duration of the servicemember's relocation.
- Voting rights. Servicemebers' residency for state, federal, or local voting purposes is unaffected by absence from ones' usual voting state due solely to military service.
- Judgment protections: Courts may not enter a judgment against a servicemember ascertained to be in military service without first appointing counsel to represent the servicemember, and if a judgment is entered, the servicemember may have the opportunity to reopen any case to assert defenses. Servicemembers may also request a delay of proceedings.
For more information on and frequently asked questions about the SCRA, visit the U.S. Department of Justice web site.
The Attorney General's Consumer Protection Section helps educate Virginians about fraud and accepts consumer complaints regarding a variety of issues. Virginians may contact the Office to get information on scams or threats, or to file a complaint. Visit our website: www.ag.virginia.gov or call 1-800-552-9963 in Virginia or (804) 786-2042 if calling from the Richmond area.
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