By William Blanken
These days, anyone can fall victim to identity theft and servicemembers might be relatively easy targets. Because servicemembers are away from home for long stretches of time and receive a steady source of income, it’s easy for scammers to obtain a servicemember’s information without being noticed. Fortunately, servicemembers might be able to protect themselves and their loved ones from identity theft by taking some preventive measures.
Start by keeping careful track of your records. This includes reading your credit reports, bank statements and credit-card statements when you receive them. This way, it will be easier to catch unusual activity, such as unexplained purchases. Be sure to shred any physical documentation to make it difficult for scam artists to access it.
It’s equally important to be cautious when giving out your personal information. If you receive an e-mail or telephone call from someone asking for credit-card information or your Social Security number, don’t share it. Most of the time, this is a scamming giveaway. Protect your digital information with a strong password that contains letters, numbers, symbols and different cases. Any passwords you use should not contain words or revealing number combinations such as your date of birth and Social Security number.
Before leaving on deployment, place an active-duty alert on your credit report. This alert requires creditors to verify your identity before credit is granted under your name. The active-duty alert is effective for one year, but may be renewed if your deployment lasts longer. You can activate or remove the alert by calling one of the three major consumer reporting agencies: Equifax, Experian or TransUnion. Whichever one you call is required to contact the other two to confirm the active-duty alert on their versions of your credit report.
If your identity is stolen despite your best efforts to protect yourself, call one of the aforementioned companies as soon as possible and ask to have an initial fraud alert placed on your credit report. You can also take advantage of a consumer’s ability to order one free credit report per year from each of the three credit reporting agencies and check them for errors. If you find an error, create your identity-theft report and contact a legal assistance office if desired. Even if the losses you suffer seem insignificant, voice your concerns by contacting a consumer reporting agency. Only then will financial fraud be addressed, and you’ll feel more secure knowing how to protect yourself from future scams.