Armed Forces Personnel Should Arm Themselves Against Identity Theft
Identity thieves are everywhere. They lurk like well-trained snipers, waiting to focus their cross-hairs on an unwary target. And, much too often, that target for identity theft is a member of the military or a military family.
Why are military personnel targeted for identity theft?
The Federal Trade Commission’s Consumer Sentinel Network Data Book says that a shocking 66 percent of retired military have been victims of identity theft. Thirteen percent of military spouses have also fallen victim to increasing identity theft.
Military personnel and their families are prime targets for identity theft because of long deployments and frequent location changes. The military also uses personally identifying information, such as the last four digits of Social Security numbers, for identification purposes. This can further increase their risk of identity theft.
While deployed for extended periods, the credit of military members is a particular vulnerability. Fraudulent information or criminal activity can even impose on their professional lives. This could later cause the revocation or denial of security clearances, or missed promotions due to bad credit.
Frequent relocation can also leave families vulnerable to criminal activity, either as direct or incidental targets. Deployed personnel can also be easy targets for unscrupulous friends of family members who can take advantage of their absence and a close knowledge of their personal and financial affairs.
How can military personnel be safe from identity theft?
There are active steps that service members can take to make sure that their eventual return to civilian life won’t be weighed down by fresh financial battles back home. Here are some quick tips to stay safe and catch identity theft early:
Review your credit report:
Obtain free copies of your credit profile from all three nationwide credit reporting companies—Experian, Equifax and TransUnion—by visiting annualcreditreport.com. This will ensure that nothing suspicious or unauthorized has happened during your deployment.
Remove your active-duty alert on your credit report:
Contact one of the three credit reporting companies to remove the active-duty alert from your credit card. If you discover suspicious activity, replace the active-duty alert with a 90-day fraud alert, a seven-year fraud alert, or a security freeze.
Terminate Powers of Attorney:
Take control of your financial affairs as soon as possible and revoke any Power of Attorney documents.
Know your rights:
Check your Service Members Civil Relief Act (SCRA) rights if you encounter any difficulties surrounding housing, interest rates, judgments, etc.
If you suspect that you’ve become a victim of identity theft or wish to proactively manage your identity security, check with your insurance company, financial institution, or employee benefits provider to find out whether they offer CyberScout security services.
This foregoing is provided by Vantage West Credit Union (“VWCU”) as general information only, and VWCU assumes no responsibility, and does not guaranty the accuracy, relevance, timeliness or completeness of such general information. Please note that any [links/references] to other websites (such as Equifax, Transunion and Experian) are for convenience only and VWCU is not responsible for the content or privacy practices of those websites. Please check all privacy statements on those websites before providing any personal information. Vantage West Credit Union shall not be liable for any damages (or any nature whatsoever) arising out of or in connection with the information contained in the foregoing. If you need additional information, please obtain advice from your tax professional or attorney.