Thank you and your family members for the sacrifices you have made to protect our freedoms and keep our nation safe. It is an honor to serve the 73,000 active members of the Armed Forces and more than 1.5 million veterans who call the State of Florida their home.
My Consumer Protection Division works every day to protect Florida consumers from businesses and individuals that engage in unfair methods of competition or deceptive and unfair practices. Unfortunately, we often see these methods used to specifically target members of our active duty and veteran communities.
The Military and Veterans Assistance Program ("MVAP") was created to help educate military members and veterans on the types of scams that target their communities, what they can do to protect themselves, and how they can help protect others by reporting scams and deceptive business practices. In addition, members of the MVAP team work directly with military servicemembers and veterans who have been targeted, or their representatives, to help resolve their consumer protection related issues or find other outside assistance if necessary.
We continue to work tirelessly to ensure that our active duty, reserve members, and veterans of the Armed Forces are protected from unscrupulous businesses and individuals, but we cannot do it alone. WE NEED YOUR HELP.
If you are aware of a scam targeting our service members or veterans, or you have been affected by a scam or deceptive business practice, please file a complaint with my office by clicking the link below or by calling my consumer protection division directly at 1-866-9-NO-SCAM (1-866-966-7226).
I would like to encourage everyone to learn more about scams targeting the military and veteran communities and what you can do to protect yourself by reading the information below. We also developed a Military Consumer Protection Resource Guide that you can order by contacting our office or print by clicking on the image below.
Whether they masquerade as payday loans, cash-advance loans, post-dated check loans or deferred-deposit loans, the seemingly harmless short-term, high-rate loans may come at a very high price. To learn more, see the Payday Lending section of our Military Consumer Protection Resource Guide.
Due to the unpredictable nature of deployments and reassignments, servicemembers often find themselves in a new location without basic furniture and appliances to furnish their new home. For this reason, rent-to-own stores are often located near military installations. However, sometimes these rent-to-own agreements come at a steep price and may result in a markup of several hundred percent. Be sure to closely read all the terms and conditions of the agreement and ascertain all costs and fees prior to signing the agreement. For more information, see the Rent-To-Own Stores section of our Military Consumer Protection Resource Guide.
The Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (“FDCPA”) prohibits debt collectors from using abusive, unfair, or deceptive practices to collect debts. Debt collectors may not use or threaten to use violence to harm the debtor, their property, or their reputation; use obscene or profane language; publish a list of consumers who refuse to pay their debts except under narrow circumstances; or repeatedly make telephone calls with the intent to annoy, abuse, or harass any person at the number dialed. Additionally, the Florida Consumer Collection Practices Act (“FCCPA”), provides greater protections for Florida consumers. To learn more, see the Debt and Credit section of our Military Consumer Protection Resource Guide.
Imposter Debt Collection
In this scam, an individual receives a telephone call from a person trying to collect a debt the consumer never incurred, or a debt that has already been paid. To learn more, see the Imposter Debt Collection section of our Military Consumer Protection Resource Guide.
Home Rental Scams
Because of the unpredictable nature of deployments and reassignments, servicemembers are highly susceptible to rental scams when seeking off-base housing. Deceptive businesses may post fake ads on rental sites which use information and photos from a legitimate ad, but then replace the true contact information with their own contact information. Additionally, some deceptive businesses may try to lease property that is in the midst of foreclosure proceedings. To learn more, see the Home Rental Scams section of our Military Consumer Protection Resource Guide.
The Servicemembers Civil Relief Act (“SCRA”) requires that, if a servicemember obtained a mortgage prior to active duty, a mortgage lender must get a court order before it can foreclose on that servicemember’s home during any period of military service and for one year thereafter. If a lender seeks such a court order, the court may temporarily delay the proceedings or adjust the amount of the servicemember’s financial obligation when it can be shown that military service impacted the servicemember’s ability to meet the obligation. For additional information, see the Housing Provisions Under the SCRA section of our Military Consumer Protection Resource Guide.
This activity targets active military or veterans and their families by using deceptive language, photos, or insignia to improperly imply that the business is affiliated with or endorsed by a branch of the U.S. Armed Forces, the U.S. Department of Defense, or the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. Verify all purported endorsements and affiliations prior to making a purchase or signing a contract. Also, check with the Better Business Bureau at www.bbb.org to determine whether the business has complaints against it. For more information, see the Affiliation Scams section of our Military Consumer Protection Resource Guide.
Numerous legitimate charities support members of the Armed Forces as well as veterans; however, unscrupulous “charities” seek to cash in on the financial support offered to servicemembers and their families. Determine if a charity is registered with the state Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services at www.800helpfla.com. You may also contact the Better Business Bureau's Wise Giving Alliance at www.give.org to determine whether the charity has any complaints against it. To learn more about charity scams, see the Charities section of our Military Consumer Protection Resource Guide.
This type of scam offers servicemembers a lump-sum cash payment in exchange for the servicemember’s future benefits or pension payments. The cash amount offered is typically only 30 to 40 percent of what servicemembers would receive in their monthly benefit payment had they not participated in a benefits-buyout plan. Be sure to read all terms and conditions to understand the exact cash amount you will receive prior to participating in such a program.
Aid and Attendance
Veterans who are eligible for VA pension benefits, and require the aid and attendance of a caretaker or are housebound, may be eligible for an increased monthly pension amount. The application is free and Florida veterans can receive free assistance in filing VA benefits applications through County Veteran Service Offices across the state. Beware of any “veteran’s advisors” who claim to be able to obtain benefits for which you do not qualify, claim to be able to obtain benefits more quickly than anyone else, or who offer to prepare the initial Aid and Attendance benefit application for a fee. Federal law prohibits VA-recognized advisors from charging to assist with initial VA pension benefits applications. Check to see if the advisor is accredited by the VA at https://www.va.gov/ogc/apps/accreditation/index.asp.