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Today we join America in honoring our veterans


On November 11, we celebrate Veterans Day, which honors all who have served our country in the Armed Forces. This holiday was originally established as Armistice Day to honor veterans of World War I, and was later updated to honor veterans of all generations.

We care deeply about protecting veterans and their families in the consumer financial marketplace, and we are especially proud to have more than 180 veterans in our ranks throughout various divisions of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. You can stay informed about the work we do to help veterans and servicemembers by following the work from our Office of Servicemember Affairs.

The men and women who volunteer to serve America in uniform come from every walk of life and from every state and territory of the United States. These courageous individuals put their lives in harm’s way to protect people they have never met. We are not only proud, but also honored to live in a country where this type of courage exists.

On this very special day, we pause to reflect on the sacrifices and accomplishments of over 22 million veterans in our many communities throughout the nation, as well as those still standing duty.

Don’t Be a Zombie with Your Personal Finances


“The Walking Dead” is a television show about a world in chaos due to a zombie outbreak. The survivors face difficult decisions and run into trouble dealing with both zombies and the living.

In the real world, many servicemembers who protect our country run into financial trouble or face difficult financial decisions, but may not be aware of consumer protections that are available to them. Unfortunately, some servicemembers may be walking around in a financial fog, unprepared for dangerous threats to their financial well-being.

Protect yourself from a data breach

In “The Walking Dead,” zombies often breach homes and buildings seeking out unsuspecting humans as their victims. In real life, you may have read in the news about hackers breaching customer account information from merchants. If you are not taking steps to safeguard your information, you, too, could fall or may have already fallen victim to harm. Take a look at our consumer advisory on the steps you can take to protect your accounts. Be aware of specific protections for servicemembers, such as placing an Active Duty Alert on your credit report prior to leaving for active duty. Learn about additional protections by downloading our Fraud Alert fact sheet.

If you encounter a problem with debt collectors, know how to respond

Zombies follow their prey (the living) relentlessly. Likewise, some people are harassed or oppressed by some debt collectors who use illegal, harassing, or aggressive tactics in an attempt to collect a debt from consumers. This can be highly stressful. By understanding the limits of what debt collectors can say or do, and knowing how to respond appropriately if you experience a problem, you can respond to tactics that put your finances at risk. Also, as a servicemember, you have extra protections under the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act (SCRA). For example, if you notify a creditor that you have gone onto active duty and provide the creditor a copy of your orders, you are entitled to have the interest rate on debts you owed before entering active duty reduced to six percent for the whole time you’re on active duty.

Keep your credit score from sliding downhill

In one episode of “The Walking Dead,” a character climbs out a window to escape a fierce group of zombies, but twists his ankle, causing him to lose ground in his attempt to escape. Did you know that making a slip such as missing credit card payments can hurt your credit score, which could impact your ability to borrow at an affordable rate in the future?

There are many steps you can take to get and keep a good credit score, such as always paying your bills on time and keeping your credit balance low in proportion to your overall credit limit. For more information, watch this webcast (hosted by our Office of Servicemember Affairs), which talks about credit scores and credit reporting and how you can take action to prevent slips or falls that could damage your overall credit standing.

We can help you find your way through the financial fog

Be proactive, know your rights and understand what laws are in place to protect you and your money. When a financial problem arises, speak with your installation’s Personal Financial Manager (PFM) and/or local JAG office to get free, expert advice and assistance. Be sure to keep documentation of all your commitments, efforts to resolve delinquencies, and any disputes about debts – it could be helpful to you later.

Ask CFPB has dozens of answers for military members. Whether you are seeking information about specific financial protections or applying for a car loan, the resources at the CFPB and our Office of Servicemember Affairs can help you take better control over your money and protect you from hidden financial dangers.

If you’re experiencing a problem with a financial product or service, you can submit a complaint online or call us at (855) 411-2372.

Servicemembers: Protecting your credit when you’re away from home


If you’re a servicemember you know you’re part of a special group – those who have answered the call to serve our country. You also know that being in the military may mean long periods of time away from home – and your finances. Being away and mission-focused means you won’t be able to regularly check your accounts or credit report, so you may be at increased risk for fraud or identity theft.

Today, we’re releasing our Fraud Alert Fact Sheet, which provides you with the information you need to know about getting protective alerts inserted into your credit reports when you’re away.

Few servicemembers sign up for protective alerts

Since October 2012, over 650 active-duty servicemembers have submitted complaints to the CFPB about their credit reports, and one in six of those complaints involved reports of identity theft or account misuse. However, out of those over 650 complaints, less than one percent reported putting an Active Duty Alert in place before leaving for active duty.

Sign up for a free Active Duty alert

Having an Active Duty alert on your credit file will notify companies of your military status and ensure that they take reasonable steps to verify the identity of a person who is requesting new credit in your name. The alert will also generally prohibit credit reporting agencies from providing your name for new prescreened credit offers for two years.

In addition to the Active Duty Alert, federal law also permits you to have notices added to your credit files if you believe you are (or might become) a victim of credit reporting fraud or identity theft. And setting up any of these alerts doesn’t cost you a cent!

Security Freeze option available too

Another choice is a Security Freeze, a protection that varies from state-to-state and tends to come with a small fee. But it completely blocks the release of your credit file to new lenders, giving you increased protection and increased peace of mind that no one can borrow in your name while the Security Freeze is active.

All of these are valuable tools and I encourage you to think about using one of them when duty takes you to distant places. Take a look at our Fraud Alert Fact Sheet so you can learn about all your options and choose the protection that will work best for you when you’re away from home.

You can follow these tips to keep an eye out for identity theft. If you have a problem with a consumer financial issue or know a servicemember, veteran or military spouse who does, a complaint can be submitted online. If you just want to share your experience, tell us your story. We’re here to help.

The launch of the CFPB financial coaching initiative


Today, we launched our financial coaching initiative. The launch featured remarks from Director Richard Cordray and Secretary of Labor Thomas Perez, as well as other key program participants.

The live event has now ended, but we’ll have a recording available here soon.

Our financial coaching initiative

Whether you’re a veteran who has recently transitioned to life in the civilian world, or a consumer facing economic challenges, having a trusted, well-informed advisor can increase your odds of success. Our financial coaching initiative will provide guidance to recently-transitioned veterans and vulnerable families in places where they’re already going for help. We’ve joined forces with the DOL and more than two dozen non-profit social-services providers to place 60 certified coaches in DOL American Job Centers and community-centered non-profits across the country. These professionals will provide one-on-one free coaching to help these consumers craft a personalized plan for financial success.

Here’s what we’re hearing from Servicemembers and their families


Today, we’re releasing our third Snapshot of Complaints Received from Servicemembers, Veterans and their Families. The report details the data and trends from consumer complaints we’ve received from members of the military community since July 2011.

Here are just a few highlights:

  • Debt collection complaints have continued to rise since our last report, and now make up 39 percent of total complaints. It is our largest category of complaints from the military community.
  • Credit reporting remains a top category of concern. 72 percent of these complaints are about incorrect information on credit reports. This remains a significant issue for the military community, one that we highlighted earlier this year.
  • Student loans are another concern. 49 percent of these complaints are about problems dealing with a lender or servicer. In these complaints, we continue to see long-standing trends, such as servicemembers complaining about not being provided their Servicemembers Civil Relief Act rights.

This year our report also highlights our outreach efforts that allowed us to connect with thousands of members of the military community, as well as three of our enforcement actions that recovered millions of dollars for affected consumers, primarily servicemembers, veterans, and their families. These figures represent the positive impact of the work we continue to do on behalf of those who serve.

Problems with account services

Basic account servicing stands out as a significant area of concern for servicemembers. Most consumers can call their financial institution, visit a branch, or connect online to try and get the help they need to maintain their account. Unfortunately, for military personnel and their families, the realities of military life, including deployments, frequent moves, and a high operational tempo, can sometimes make access to those services extremely challenging.

We found that servicemembers were often subject to a variety of account maintenance or penalty fees, as well as account-access restrictions, which were triggered due to aspects of their military service.

These problems raise concerns that financial institutions may not have a true understanding of the servicing needs of their military customers and may lack proper procedures and protections for them. Detailed examples of servicemember experiences can be found in Section II of the report.

Check out the snapshot to learn more.

We’re listening

As always, if you have a problem with a consumer financial product that you can’t resolve on your own; or if you know someone in that situation, please remember that you can submit a complaint online or by calling (855) 411-2372. We make your voice heard.

The VA doesn’t send you mortgage ads


We’re announcing an enforcement action against a lender that wrongfully used the logos of the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) and the Federal Housing Administration (FHA). RMK Financial Corporation (also doing business as Majestic Home Loans) sent out ads to veterans and other VA-eligible borrowers that misled consumers to think that RMK’s products were endorsed by the VA, or even sent by the VA, and they misrepresented the terms and costs of the mortgages themselves. This is the fifth enforcement action we’ve completed in the past two months against companies using deceptive mortgage advertising.

Deceptive advertising to mislead consumers

RMK sent out mailings to over 100,000 consumers across the country. These ads used the name, seal, and logos of the VA, giving the impression that the VA had sent the ad or endorsed the product. Also, the ads misrepresented the price of the advertised mortgages, including whether the interest rate was fixed or variable. Sometimes, important disclosures about loan rates were hidden on the back of the ads or buried in fine print. Envelopes were plastered with warnings about “fines or imprisonment” under US law.

Two years ago, along with the Federal Trade Commission, we warned companies that were placing mortgage ads directed at consumers, some of which targeted those eligible for VA benefits. Since then, we’ve continued to investigate mortgage lenders, including RMK.

The VA won’t advertise to you

Mike Frueh, Director of the VA Home Loan Program, had this to say about mortgage offers that represent themselves as coming from the VA:

“VA will never email or mail out solicitations for our loan program. VA does not endorse or sponsor any particular lender; instead, we work to ensure all Veterans and Servicemembers can safely use the benefit they’ve earned, at the lender of their choice. If you have any questions about your home loan benefit, please visit the VA website, or call VA at (877) 827-3702.”

Here’s what you can do

While we may not reduce the volume of your junk mail as a result of today’s action, we hope that we’ve called attention to a significant problem. Here’s how you can avoid being taken in by similar offers:

  • Be a savvy consumer— look at everything an advertiser has to say about the product they’re selling. Today’s action involved a mortgage lender that placed flashy seals and logos front and center, but hid important disclosures in the fine print on the back of their ads.
  • Get information from trusted sources — even if an ad is plastered in official-looking seals and impressive endorsements, check with a trusted source to learn all you can about the product being advertised. Learn more about VA loans and refinances. Ask CFPB also has answers to some common questions.
  • Let us know about misleading ads— if you see an ad that looks deceptive or misleading, or just looks too good to be true, submit a complaint to us. We accept complaints about mortgages and other financial products marketed to veterans, such as consumer loans. Information you provide informs our work every day.