Military families and service members are submitting debt collection complaints at twice the rate of other consumers, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau said Tuesday in a report.
The CFPB has long been concerned that unpaid debts can threaten a military career. Military members complained to the bureau last year that debt collectors have contacted their commanding officers and even threatened their security clearances over debt issues.
Roughly 44% of complaints about debt collectors involved debts that service members said they believed they did not owe, the bureau said.
"Members of the military continue to have serious problems when it comes to debt collection," CFPB Director Richard Cordray said in a press release. "The bureau will continue to closely monitor complaints from service members to ensure our brave men and women are getting the protection they deserve."
The CFPB is currently working on proposing rules for the debt collectors that would require them to help consumer better understand the costs and risks associated with certain products and services.
The three products or services that military members and all consumers complained about the most were debt collection, mortgages and credit reporting. Debt collection complaints made up 46% of the 19,000 complaints from the military last year, the report found. Overall complaints by the military rose 12% year over year in 2015.
Incorrect information on credit reports remains a top concern because service members often are deployed or on temporary duty and find it tough to resolve disputes with creditors. Roughly 72% of complaints about credit reports involved incorrect information, the bureau found.
The 41-page report also said service members were frustrated by "zero-percent" introductory promotions for new credit card accounts. Military members specifically complained about the terms of some introductory programs with requirements that the entire balance on their credit cards be paid in full at the end of an introductory period. Many service members said they were charged interest retroactively on all purchases after the card was opened, even if they made minimum monthly payments.
Service members "were not prepared for the shock of being charged all the interest that would have accumulated from day one, as if they never had a zero percent deal at all," the report stated.
The CFPB took four enforcement actions last year against companies that allegedly took advantage of service members and returned $5 million to them.