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CAMP FOSTER, Okinawa (July 14, 2006) -- The Department of Defense lists payday lending in its top ten issues of concern for military families. What was once a relatively minor issue for service members living in Okinawa has become a greater threat with the rapid increase of payday lenders using the internet.

"The growing problem here on Okinawa is, although there is only one payday lender on island, many people are consulting the internet to get payday loans," said Allison Green, the director of Navy Marine Corps Relief Society, Okinawa.

Payday lending falls under the auspices of predatory lending. This practice involves a lender taking advantage of a borrower who is looking for fast and easy money.

"Many people going to payday lenders do not understand the terms and often end up paying up to 400 percent interest or more on the initial loan," Green said.

Active duty military personnel are three times more likely than civilians to take out a payday loan, according to the Center for Responsible Lending, an organization opposing predatory lending.

The questionable business practice is increasing so much that the Under Secretary of the Navy, Chief of Naval Operations and Commandant of the Marine Corps have called on military leaders to take immediate, decisive action against predatory lending practices, according to the CRL.

In a joint senate assembly earlier this year, Sgt. Maj. Wayne R. Bell, sergeant major for Marine Corps Bases West, implored the senate to make predatory lending practices illegal.

During his testimony, Bell spoke about the strain that debts put on military families and the unfair penalties imposed.

"We ask that you help us put a stop to predatory payday lending practices directed against those who defend our nation's freedom," he said during the assembly. "Our Marines deserve better."

What is important for service members to understand is that there are many resources available to those needing financial assistance, Green said.

The Navy Marine Corps Relief Society helps Marines and sailors with everything from interest free emergency loans to completing a budget, she said.

"When you do a budget, you can see exactly where your money is going," Green said. "If you have debt, we can point you in the right direction. Whether or not it's an emergency, people should come to us even if they're not sure we can help them."

During the month of June, NMCRS, Okinawa saw three cases in which service members were involved with payday lenders, Green said. The society assisted these individuals with more than $8,000 collectively in interest free loans and grants to meet their emergency financial needs and get them out of debt with the predatory lenders..
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