'Active Duty' Alerts Help Protect Military Personnel from Identity Theft
The last thing you want to worry about while you're on deployment is someone assuming your identity to commit financial fraud. Now, you don't have to. Amendments to the Fair Credit Reporting Act allow you to place an "active duty alert" in your credit report. According to the Federal Trade Commission, one of the agencies that enforces the FCRA, the alert requires creditors to verify your identity before granting credit in your name.
Your credit report contains information on where you live, how you pay your bills, and whether you've been sued, arrested, or filed for bankruptcy. Nationwide consumer reporting companies sell the information in your report to creditors, insurers, employers, and other businesses that use it to evaluate applications for credit, and a host of other activities, including insurance, employment, or renting a home.
Your credit report can be a tool to help you guard against—or discover—identity theft, which occurs when someone uses your personal information—like your name, your Social Security number, or your credit card number—to commit fraud. Identity thieves may use your information to open a new credit card account in your name. Then, when they don't pay the bills, the delinquent account is reported on your credit report. Inaccurate or fraudulent information could affect your ability to get credit, insurance, or housing, now or in the future. People whose identities have been stolen can spend months or years cleaning up the mess the thieves have made of their names and credit records.
If you are a member of the military and away from your usual duty station, you may place an "active duty alert" on your credit report to help minimize the risk of identity theft while you are deployed. When a business sees the alert on your credit report, it must verify your identity before issuing you credit. The business may try to contact you directly, but if you're on deployment, that may be impossible. As a result, the law allows you to use a personal representative to place or remove an alert. Active duty alerts on your report are effective for one year, unless you request that the alert be removed sooner. If your deployment lasts longer, you may place another alert on your report.
To place an "active duty" alert, or to have it removed, call the toll-free fraud number of one of the three nationwide consumer reporting companies: Equifax, Experian, or Trans Union. The company will require you to provide appropriate proof of your identity, which may include your Social Security number, your name, address, and other personal information.
- Equifax: 1-800-525-6285; www.equifax.com
- Experian: 1-888-EXPERIAN (397-3742); www.experian.com
- TransUnion: 1-800-680-7289; www.transunion.com
Contact only one of the three companies to place an alert—the company you call is required to contact the other two, which will place an alert on their versions of your report, as well. If your contact information changes before your alert expires, remember to update it.
When you place an active duty alert, your name will be removed from the nationwide consumer reporting companies' marketing lists for prescreened offers of credit and insurance for two years—unless you ask that your name be placed on the lists before then. Prescreened offers—sometimes called "preapproved" offers—are based on information in your credit report that indicates you meet certain criteria set by the offeror.
To learn more about identity theft and your credit rights under the FCRA and the Fair and Accurate Credit Transactions Act, visit the FTC.gov website.
The FTC works for the consumer to prevent fraudulent, deceptive and unfair business practices in the marketplace and to provide information to help consumers spot, stop, and avoid them. To file a complaint or to get free information on consumer issues, visit www.ftc.gov or call toll-free, 1-877-FTC-HELP (1-877-382-4357); TTY: 1-866-653-4261. The FTC enters Internet, telemarketing, identity theft, and other fraud-related complaints into Consumer Sentinel, a secure, online database available to hundreds of civil and criminal law enforcement agencies in the U.S. and abroad.