WASHINGTON D.C. — The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) has sued auto finance source Security National Automotive Acceptance Company (SNAAC) for aggressive debt collection tactics against military service members.

The CFPB charged the company with using illegal threats and deceptive claims in order to collect debts. It is seeking compensation for harmed consumers, a civil penalty and an order prohibiting the company from committing future violations, claiming the company violated the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protections Act by using aggressive collection tactics that took advantage of service member’s special obligations to remain current on debts.

The Ohio-based auto finance source operates in more than 24 states and specializes in providing vehicle financing to active-duty and former military members.

Once these consumers defaulted, SNAAC threatened to contact a service member’s chain of command and in some cases exaggerated the consequences of not paying. The CFPB alleges that thousands of people were victim to the company’s tactics.

“Security National Automotive Acceptance Company took advantage of military rules to put enormous pressures on service members to pay their debts,” said CFPB Director Richard Cordray. “For all the security they provide us, service members should not have their financial and career security threatened by false information from an auto loan company.”

The CFPB also provided specific details on SNAAC’s tactics, which included telling service members that failing to pay could result in action under the Uniform Code of Military Justice (UCMJ). This action could include demotion, loss of promotion, discharge, denial of re-enlistment, loss of security clearance or reassignment. According to the CFPB, these actions were extremely unlikely.

The auto finance source also contacted commanding officers in an effort to force payment, suggesting that service members were in violation of the UCMJ and other regulations. This tactic took advantage of many consumers who were unaware of the provision and were unclear of how much pressure would be brought to bear because of it.

The company also falsely threatened to garnish wages, which is only possible after a court judgment is obtained. The finance company also threatened to take legal action against customers when, in fact, they had not determined whether they would actually take such an action and in many cases had no such intention at the time.

For more information on the complaint, click here.