By Carol Kando-Pineda, Attorney, Federal Trade Commission Division of Consumer & Business Education
The FTC and its partners collaborate to help service members, military families, veterans, and civilians in the military community make smart financial decisions.
The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has experience with listening to consumers — through our online complaint system, our public workshops, and simple conversations. We also collaborate with our sister agencies, industry groups, and advocacy organizations to share best practices and leverage each other’s reach.
Our work with military consumers is a case in point. In 2013, FTC staff approached the Department of Defense (DOD), the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, and Military Saves with an idea: Let’s work together to highlight some of the challenges the military and veterans communities face as consumers. The result was Military Consumer Protection Day. Within a few years, the day had evolved into a month (July is Month of the Military Consumer) to highlight a year-round initiative.
By 2016, we had started the long process to revamp our Military Consumer site: writing completely new content, adding more links to partner resources, and creating a tool kit for intermediaries. And once again, we sought out military personnel and community leaders to get their thoughts.
To start, we held a series of meetings to discuss partner organizations’ input on determining the relevant consumer topics and most critical tips. During our meetings, we spoke with the DOD and its Financial Readiness Roundtable members, several federal agencies, Military Saves and its partners, more than 20 offices of attorneys general, Better Business Bureau Military Line, the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority Investor Education Foundation, trade associations for military banks and credit unions, the National Military Family Association, and others. Among other things, they shared what works for them and what they’ve learned from service members over the years. Their contributions were invaluable.
In late 2016, we launched our new Military Consumer site. It has tips to manage money, credit, and debt and avoid scams as well as a tool kit with presentation slides and talking points to help military financial counselors and others who work with military families. The site links to many partners’ resources, ready when service members or counselors want to take a deeper dive into an issue.
We gathered the same partners to brief them and ask for their help in connecting service members with Military Consumer. Again, our partners stepped up and helped leverage our reach by sharing Military Consumer with the troops and families they advise.
We’ll keep talking to our military collaborators, analyzing the fraud reports we get from military families, and sharing the latest topics and trends so we can adjust as needed to give our service members what they’re looking for as consumers.