Zoeller helps launch legal toolkit to protect military service members


Greg Zoeller

INDIANAPOLIS – Indiana Attorney General Greg Zoeller recently helped launch a legal toolkit to assist state attorneys general in cracking down on those who prey upon military service members.

Zoeller worked with the U.S. Department of Justice, the Consumer Protection Working Group of the Financial Fraud Enforcement Task Force and attorneys general from Kentucky, Illinois and North Carolina to develop the toolkit. The kit outlines issues impacting the military community and how states’ consumer protection officials can effectively combat these types of financial predators and scammers.

“Scammers and illegitimate businesses often target service members and their families because of their steady paychecks and deployments,” Zoeller said. “Issues impacting our military include topics ranging from predatory mortgage lending to auto financing and from GI Bill related scams to identity theft. It’s important that state and federal officials use the resources available to crack down on those who prey on individuals serving our country.”

The toolkit is intended to serve as a guide for relevant statutes and regulations, as well as a platform to discuss best practices and developing trends. Zoeller said his colleagues in offices of state attorneys general nationwide will be better equipped to navigate the diverse issues and complex laws concerning the military community.

“I want to thank Attorney General Zoeller for his efforts to protect our service members from financial predators who attempt to take advantage of those serving our country,” said Maj. Gen. R. Martin Umbarger, Adjutant General of the Indiana National Guard. “I also want to encourage every soldier and airman to look closely at the resources available to protect themselves and their families, so they understand situational awareness in the world of finance can be just as important as it is on the battlefield.”

Zoeller said there are some important resources available to those in the military to help prevent financial harm including:

· Active-Duty Alerts: These alerts can be placed on a service member’s credit report to inform a business it is obtaining information from an individual away on active duty. The alert requires the business to first obtain permission from an authorized third party like a family member or friend before proceeding.

· Caps on interest bearing debt: Those on active duty may cap the interest rate on most outstanding loans at 6 percent under the provisions of the Service members Civil Relief Act. To have your interest rate reduced to 6 percent, you must write a letter to each creditor letting them know about your orders and your intent to invoke the 6 percent cap.

· Vehicle and property lease terminations: Deployed military members are able to legally terminate some vehicle and property leases. If you are currently leasing a vehicle or home/apartment and wish to terminate your lease, contact the leaseholder and inform them of your deployment.

· Foreclosure and eviction relief: Under the Service member Civil Relief Act and the National Mortgage Settlement, service members are granted special relief when facing foreclosure. For example, a person may be able to obtain a “stay” or temporarily delay in a foreclosure or other civil court proceeding if he or she is called up to active duty. In addition, service members have special eligibility for loss mitigation relief such as a modification of their loan or a short sale. Similarly, service members and their families who rent their home may obtain a temporary stay of eviction proceedings while the service member is on active duty.

Military service members can visit www.IndianaConsumer.com/military/ to learn more about resources available to them.