While American servicemembers stand ready to defend the nation, smalltime scammers and large corporations alike have them in their sights. They follow the money — and they know that military personnel get a steady paycheck and valuable benefits from Uncle Sam. And the eventual transition back to civilian life gives the scammers even more opportunities to target the troops.
For instance, the FTC uncovered that the University of Phoenix (UOP), a massive for-profit university, targeted servicemembers and veterans, among others, by luring them with false promises. Under a settlement reached with the company, UOP paid $50 million in cash and canceled $141 million in debts owed to the school. In another FTC enforcement action, Career Education Corporation was required to return $30 million to students after its agents recruited patriotic Americans using phony government websites like “Army.com” and “NavyEnlist.com” — a ruse to get students in the door. These cases show that you can’t always trust slick websites, or schools that are eager to get you enrolled.
Earlier this year, Congress closed the so-called “90/10” loophole, which gave predatory schools an incentive to target veterans. But enforcers must continue to be vigilant. The FTC works closely with the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) and refers unfair or deceptive practices to the VA as our investigations uncover them. Schools that prey on veterans should understand that they will face not only enforcement actions by the FTC but also the loss of eligibility for GI and Title IV funds.
There are tools to help veterans, servicemembers, and all kinds of students navigate the education marketplace and blow the whistle on bad actors. If you have a federal student loan and feel like a school misled you or broke the law, apply for loan forgiveness through the Department of Education’s (ED’s) Borrower Defense to Repayment procedures. If you’re getting started (or re-started), ED’s Opportunity Centers are designed to help prospective students (including people of modest means, first-generation college students, and veterans) apply for admission to college and arrange for financial aid and loans. Find one near you. Servicemembers: talk with your Personal Financial Manager to get hands-on help with your next steps. And vets can call the VA’s GI Bill Hotline to discuss questions about education benefits: 1-888-GIBILL (1-888-442-4551), or visit the VA site to learn more.
If you see deceptions like these — during Military Consumer Month, and every month — protect the military and veteran communities by reporting it. Use the VA’s feedback tool to file a complaint about a school and let the FTC know at ReportFraud.ftc.gov.