Team Buckley gets tips on being smart with their money
By Senior Airman Stephen Musal , 460th Space Wing Public Affairs
/ Published October 20, 2009
BUCKLEY AIR FORCE BASE, Colo. -- With insurance scams, payday loans and other shady financial choices designed to separate Airmen and their families from their money, at least one organization is fighting back with education.
Holly Petraeus, Better Business Bureau's military line director, spoke to Team Buckley Oct. 14 at the Leadership Development Center. Her talk was designed "to help all of us and our families make sound financial decisions," said Col. Clint Crosier, 460th Space Wing commander.
Mrs. Petraeus began her seminar with the BBB quiz, "Are you a smart consumer?" intended to raise awareness of commonly misunderstood financial situations. Only three teams out of the audience of more than 100 Airmen, Soldiers, Sailors and Marines answered all 15 questions correctly, which Mrs. Petraeus said was a rare occurrence - often, she said, no one in the audience gets every question right.
Afterwards, Mrs. Petraeus explained what the BBB does. It evaluates charities' compliance with ethical standards; provides free auto warranty dispute resolution; creates reliability reports on businesses based on complaint history and other factors; reviews national advertising for truth and accuracy as well as provides seminars promoting consumer education. Of all the parts of the BBB's mission, she said, the reliability reports are the most help to consumers.
"If you don't leave here with anything else, leave here thinking check BBB.org before making a purchase," Mrs. Petraeus said.
Mrs. Petraeus also specifically spoke about the BBB military line.
"In moving around for (Gen.) David (Petraeus)'s career, I've seen lots of bases, and I've seen what you've all seen: that strip outside the gate," she said.
In that "strip," there are often predatory lending, auto loans at punitive rates, questionable "investment" firms and identity theft while service members are deployed are all reasons why the BBB works to protect military members.
In addition to briefings and consumer workshops, Mrs. Petraeus said the military line also works with the Armed Forces Disciplinary Control Board when businesses are placed on off-limits lists and coordination with on-base agencies to protect and educate service members.
Part of that protection, she said is knowing what scams to watch out for. Advance-fee loans and credit cards and "foreclosure rescue" scams all work the same way, she said. Someone takes money promising to help and just runs off with it.
"It is illegal for anyone to ask you to front money in order to get a loan," Mrs. Petraeus said. Scammers, however, prey on consumer ignorance - and they are determined to take your hard-earned money.
"It's like whack-a-mole," she said. "You find one, you prosecute, another one pops right up with a different name. You need to learn to protect yourself."
Investment scams like Ponzi and pyramid schemes, as well as "help-wanted" scams, all work in a similar manner - people put money down now with promise of dividends, advancement or job training later, and the rewards never come.
Mystery shopper scams work slightly differently, Mrs. Petraeus said, in that people will send "money" in the form of a cashier's check, ask Airmen to spend some of it as a mystery shopper at popular chain stores. In the end, the cashier's check is a forgery and Airmen are left holding the bill and a bounced check.
Unfortunately, with the thousands of possible scams, Mrs. Petraeus could not brief the audience on every single one. The bottom line, however, is to remember three things:
- Don't give out personal information unless absolutely necessary.
- Don't send money in advance.
- Do check out businesses with the Better Business Bureau.
"We want you to save your money," Mrs. Petraeus concluded.