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Today is Military Consumer Protection Day. Never heard of it? That’s probably because it’s the first ever Military Protection Day, and we don’t mean protection from injuries while in the line of duty-that’s another topic altogether. All the protective gear and weaponry can't protect them from this kind of danger. Today marks the beginning of a year-long campaign by federal agencies to help those and their families who are service members properly handle their finances and protect them from identity theft. According to statistics from the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), members of the military are often targeted because they frequently relocate and have a steady paycheck. Last year more than 62,000 complaints to the FTC were from active military, veterans and their spouses.
Groups all over the nation are offering tips and information about managing money, dealing with credit, handling debt, protecting their personal information, saving, and bringing about an awareness of identity theft and fraud.
Below is our list of helpful tips for our service members. They help us on a daily basis, so we want to help them too!
Contact the Post Office
One way service members and everyday American’s get their identity stolen is by thieves obtaining their mail. It’s against the law to open up someone else’s mail, but that’s not stopping anyone. Make sure you submit a change of address to your post office before you move. You can set the date that the address change will be active so you can get it taken care of before the task of moving comes about. Changing your address is really easy and can be done online.
Identity Theft Protection Programs
Last year more than 24,000 complaints to the FTC involved identity theft from service members. The most common ways all American’s have their identity stolen or compromised is from information found on the internet, “dumpster diving,” “phishing,” “skimming,” or stealing your mail, wallet, or purse. Thieves are getting craft, too, with high-tech methods to obtain your credit card information. It’s easier to prevent fraud or identity theft than it is to try and fix it. Consider opening an account with an identity theft program. You may be thinking, “I don’t want to waste money on something that hasn’t happened yet,” but the time and money spent to reestablish credit and your identity far surpasses any monthly fee you would pay for protection. Ever drop a new phone a week after purchasing it and immediately regret not getting that extra cell phone coverage? Same thing applies here-don’t be sorry. Read this informative article about identity theft protection programs.
A logical consideration for active military is a credit freeze. The individual pays a small fee, usually no higher than $20, and they must contact all three credit bureaus. This will freeze their credit report so creditors won’t be able to see your credit report, and no one will be able to open any new lines of credit with your information. A new line of credit applies to credit cards, mortgage loans, car loans, etc. This is a great way to stop people from accessing your information in a fraudulent way. A credit freeze can be set up to expire on a specific date, or you can give them notice to lift the freeze when you are ready. It takes about 10 days to get a freeze lifted, so plan ahead before you’re at the car dealership ready to drive off with your new car. Read more about a credit freeze and how it works.
Active Duty Alert
Another option for those that are still active is to look into placing an active duty alert on their credit reports. Unlike a credit freeze, you only have to contact one of the three credit bureaus and they will then contact the other two. An Active Duty Alert is active for one whole year and your name is removed from pre-approved offers for two years. Keep in mind that this isn’t fool proof. The alert tells them you are away, but they do not have to call you to approve a line of credit and they use their own discretion on whether or not they think the request is fraudulent or not, which is why a credit freeze may be the better option. Here’s some additional information on that subject from Equifax.