August 16, 2022

Where an Army Paycheck Is an Easy Target

That makes it tempting to head away from the post for extra money.

A few miles south of Fort Campbell’s gates, Nicole Allen was working the front desk at Grifols Biomat USA Plasma Center, which had a “Welcome Home Troops” sign over the entry. About 20 percent of the people who come in to sell that part of their blood are enlisted men and women, she said. New donors can earn up to $1,100 in their first month.

A donor referral program can yield even more. “That’s how we see the military,” Ms. Allen said. “They tell the whole company.”

But what if you need more than that?

The founding mythos of Omni Military Loans begins with Staff Sgt. Fred Nives. After World War II, he wanted a car but couldn’t get a loan.

The firm that he started decades ago has a branch near Fort Campbell, a prime corner spot in a well-kept strip mall. Accolades cover the walls, including a years-old Better Business Bureau “torch” award: Omni had been a local semifinalist for ethics.

The company offers a simple product — installment loans of $500 to $10,000 that last up to 36 months. The term length is no accident. Most people stay in the Army for at least that long but often go delinquent on consumer debts when they leave the service.

Omni makes it very easy to pay, with a set-it-and-forget-it system that other lenders can only dream of. Decades before automatic payments from checking accounts were common, the Department of Defense gave soldiers the ability to pay bills through its allotment system. Soldiers divvy up their paychecks before they hit their bank accounts, sending some back home or, in the case of Omni, to pay off a loan.

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