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Legal Office offers credit advice to Airmen

By 37th Training Wing Legal Office | March 7, 2008

LACKLAND AIR FORCE BASE, TEXAS — Several different credit scams have surfaced in recent years. Most are fairly easy to spot, once it's known what to look for. 

The most recent scams relate to auto finance, special rate credit cards and advance-fee loans. 

"E-1, E-2, E-3, NO PROBLEM!" 

These commercials are everywhere on the local airwaves. It's tempting to think that someone would want to reward military personnel for the simple fact of our military service, but the devil is in the details. 

Auto salesmen know that more junior enlisted troops, especially single enlisted troops, don't generally have rent payments or family obligations. In addition, the finance people know they can always track down military members and that most people are reluctant to declare bankruptcy. 

The scam lies in the extraordinarily high interest rates and long terms of these loans. 

Before committing to a large loan on a new truck, think about getting something more reasonable used. 

The newness of the vehicle will wear off relatively quickly on Texas back roads and the investment goes with it. Buy a reliable car, saving the money for a big truck for roads that won't eat it alive. 

Credit card companies bombard mailboxes with special rate credit card offers on a daily basis. By law, the company must list the real terms of the deal somewhere in the materials. 

Look for the chart with those terms on the back, and which will most likely list that rate only lasts for a few months and returns to a much higher rate if a payment is missed. Always read these offers carefully! 

A safer bet is to build credit slowly by paying credit cards off month to month. Once good credit is established, more legitimate offers will come rolling in. 

Advance payment loans are one of the latest scams to hit the media. They often appear on the Internet or radio commercials advertising guaranteed funding for an up-front fee. 

The result is always the same - as soon as they have the money, they disappear or send a denial letter. 

A legitimate lender will never ask for an up-front fee. While they may ask for a funding fee, this should only be paid after the loaned funds are available to the borrower. 

If a financial problem arises, don't be afraid to ask for help. 

If there really is a way to pay off debt, a credit counseling service can help plan payments. Before agreeing to their terms, contact an attorney at the 37th Training Wing Legal Office. 

While some credit counseling services are legitimate, some are merely fronts for credit card companies. The office would be happy to give a free, unbiased opinion. 

In cases where there really is no way to pay down debt, filing bankruptcy may be an option. While many people view this as a dishonorable choice, it is a right provided under federal law. 

Further, no discriminating action may be taken by any federal agency, to include the Air Force, for declaring bankruptcy. 

Don't rush into such a decision, but it is out there. 

In short, look carefully at credit offers. They are rarely as good as they seem. 

If additional information is needed, the Legal Office, located in the Bldg. 2484, is available for assistance. 

The Legal Office provides assistance primarily by appointment, which can be made by phone. 

In addition to appointments, the office offers walk-in legal assistance for non-will related urgent legal needs on Tuesday afternoons. 

Check in for walk-in legal assistance begins at 4 p.m. and runs until 4:30 p.m. 

Clients arriving after 4:30 p.m. will not be seen, and those seeking wills must schedule an appointment. 

Active-duty members, family members, retirees, Guardsman and Reservists who have valid identification cards will likely qualify to receive this free service. 

Any questions about eligibility, hours, location or services, can be answered by calling 671-3362 or 671-3363.