AUSTIN, Texas – Those who serve in the military are especially at-risk of falling victim to bad business practices, as evidenced by the thousands of complaints filed with Better Business Bureau by military personnel every year.
“Unfortunately, military servicemen and women and their families continue to be a heavily targeted group,” said Carrie A. Hurt, president and CEO of BBB serving Central, Coastal, Southwest Texas and the Permian Basin. “They are generally in a more stable financial situation, which businesses recognize.”
Because of the nature of military service, members of the military are often young and constantly moving, making it easy for a dishonest business to take advantage. BBB urges servicemen and women to be extra cautious when entering into a contract or making a large purchase.
The following industries garner the most BBB complaints from members of the military:
Auto dealers. Within the past 12 months, service members have filed 143 complaints against auto dealers. The majority of those complaints allege dishonest and misleading sales practices and fees or interest rates that are much higher than the negotiated price.
Insurance companies. Of the 131 complaints filed against insurance companies by members of the military within the last year, 121 of those complaints were against car insurance companies. Most complaints allege companies failed to provide promised assistance or support for products or services.
Payday lenders. Many cash-strapped families may find themselves in need of a payday loan. However, high interest rates, unaffordable payment terms and high-pressure collection tactics can make these debts impossible to repay. What most borrowers don’t realize is the high interest rates attached to these loans can trap them into a “debt cycle,” which forces borrowers to repeatedly renew the loan and pay associated fees until they can finally save enough to pay off the principal.
Property management. While serving, many military men and women and their families receive permanent change of station orders, which means possibly having to break a lease. While the Service members Civil Relief Act allows service members to break a lease due to PCS, it does not protect them from management companies finding other ways to make money. Most of the 67 complaints filed with BBB within the last year allege management companies improperly charged for “damaged property” or “repairs needing to be made” after the tenant moved out.
BBB offers these general tips to consider when dealing with any of these industries:
· Research the company. Always check out a company’s BBB Business Review online at bbb.org. The reports are free and will tell you if the company is Accredited, how many complaints the business has received, whether there have been any government actions brought against the business and BBB’s overall rating.
· Beware of high pressure sales. A trustworthy company should let you take time to think about the purchase and compare prices before buying or putting down a deposit.
· Get everything in writing. Make sure when signing a contract that any verbal agreements are included in writing. Pay close attention to the payment terms, costs, fees, etc. Do not sign any contract that has blank spaces. Keep a copy of all documents signed, receipts and any other paperwork.
· Ask questions. If you have any questions about or disagree with anything in your contract, policy or lease, talk with the company and be sure you’re comfortable before you sign anything.
To check the reliability of a company and find trustworthy businesses, visit bbb.org.
About Better Business Bureau:
BBB's mission is to be the leader in advancing marketplace trust. BBB accomplishes this mission by creating a community of trustworthy businesses, setting standards for marketplace trust, encouraging and supporting best practices, celebrating marketplace role models and denouncing substandard marketplace behavior.
Businesses that earn BBB Accreditation contractually agree and adhere to the organization's high standards of ethical business behavior. BBB is the preeminent resource to turn to for objective, unbiased information on businesses and charities.
Contact BBB serving Central, Coastal, Southwest Texas and the Permian Basin at (512) 445-4748.