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Financial Services Law Insights and Observations

CFPB finds issues in servicemember use of payment apps

Federal Issues Fintech CFPB Consumer Finance Payments Servicemembers

Federal Issues

On June 20, the CFPB released its Office of Servicemember Affairs Annual Report, highlighting financial threats associated with military families’ use of digital payment apps. The report analyzed complaints submitted by military families, veterans, and servicemembers (totaling 66,400 complaints in 2022 alone, a 55 percent increase from 2021). Notably, servicemembers’ complaints exceeded the percentage filed by all consumers for topics including debt collection, credit cards, mortgages, and more.

Top complaints are linked to: (i) fraud and scams when using digital payment apps; (ii) identity theft and unauthorized account access; and (iii) failure of digital payment app providers to provide timely solutions to servicemember complaints. The Bureau explained that servicemembers can be exposed to greater risks of fraud and scams when using a digital payment app—“[o]ften during a permanent change of duty station, servicemembers face the need to secure housing, a new automobile, or daycare during a short window, which often requires them to conduct more online transactions using digital payment apps.” The Bureau also found that servicemembers are prime targets for identity theft, noting that servicemembers complained that digital payment service providers give insufficient support in response to their complaints.

To address the emerging risks, the Bureau recommended that digital payment app providers invest in privacy and security technology for their apps to combat fraudulent activity. The Bureau also suggested providers improve their responsiveness, especially in the case of military families who may be on a tight timeline during a permanent change of station or deployment. The Bureau also recommended that providers implement tailored policies on fraud losses and automatic fraud detection in recognition of the unique circumstances military families face.