Delaware Making Moves in Protecting Servicemembers from Predator - WBOC-TV 16, Delmarvas News Leader, FOX 21 -

Delaware Making Moves in Protecting Servicemembers from Predatory Lenders

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DOVER, Del. (WBOC) - Delaware has been taking big steps to protect our servicemen and women from predatory lending.

It's in many forms recently - the signing of a new law, announcing significant action against an alledged predatory lender and informing servicemembers about the potential for danger.

At a resource fair for current military and veterans at Delaware State University this week was Holly Petraeus, wife of Ret. Gen. David Petraeus and head of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau's Office of Servicemember Affairs. She says servicemen and women can be particularly vulnerable to scammers and predatory lenders.

"Servicemembers - we don't like to think about it, but they are actually targeted sometimes by folks who want to take advantage of them. And there are reasons for that," she said.

Among the reasons are they get a guaranteed paycheck and tend to be young and may lack experience in matters of personal finance. Those reasons likely came into play for 17,800 servicemembers nationwide Delaware Attorney General Beau Biden's office says were taken advantage of by a company called Rome Finance Company.

"It was providing very expensive financing to servicemembers who were being sold products, usually right outside the gates of military installations, and hiding the true cost of the financing," Petraeus said.

"Some of these young servicemembers were paying significant additional dollars in financing costs that were not disclosed to them," said Matthew Lintner, head of the fraud unit for the Delaware Department of Justice. "The company had systematically done that, moving from place to place, changing its name."

Thirteen state attorneys general got a total of $92 million in debt relief for affected servicemembers in a settlement. That includes 31 people in Delaware to the tune of $172,000.

Petraeus says it's important to focus specifically on protecting military as they protect America.

"It behooves all of us to see that we provide them protections to show that we support them and to see they are not financially harmed by going to serve their country," she said.

A big part of protection at the federal level is something called the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act. It protects servicemen and women from being sued while they are in active service. But it does not protect people in state national guards.

Last week Gov. Jack Markell signed a bill to change that in Delaware. The new law effectively provides many of the same protections of the federal SCRA to members of the Delaware National Guard.
     
Click here for more information protection for servicemembers.

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