For Military, Identity Protection is a Must
Published, January 10, 2014
Identify theft is a constant and evolving threat for all citizens and can be of particular concern for deployed military and their families. Identity theft is a serious crime that can disrupt your finances, credit history, and reputation, and take time, money, and patience to resolve.
This Privacy Tip provides flags for Military Personnel and their families to look for to alert them to identify theft, explains what identify theft is, list actions to prevent identify theft, and finally, explains what to do if identity theft occurs, using information from the Federal Trade Commission website under the Consumer Protection tab.
IDENTITY THEFT: MILITARY PERSONNEL & FAMILIES
What to know & what to do
Red Flags of Identity Theft
What is Identity Theft?
- Mistakes on your bank, credit card, or other account statements
- Mistakes on the explanation of medical benefits from your health plan
- Your regular bills and account statements don't arrive on time
- Bills or collection notices for products or services you never received
- Calls from debt collectors about debts that don't belong to you
- A notice from the IRS that someone used your Social Security number
- Mail, email, or calls about accounts or jobs in your minor child's name
- Unwarranted collection notices on your credit report
- Businesses turn down your checks
- You are turned down unexpectedly for a loan or job
Identity theft is a serious crime. It can disrupt your finances, credit history, and reputation, and take time, money, and patience to resolve. Identity theft happens when someone steals your personal information and uses it without your permission. The rigors of military life can compound the problems that identity theft creates.
Identity thieves might:
How to Protect Your Information
- Go through trash cans and dumpsters, stealing bills and documents that have sensitive information.
- Work for businesses, medical offices, or government agencies, and steal personal information on the job.
- Misuse the name of a legitimate business, and call or send emails that trick you into revealing personal information.
- Pretend to offer a job, a loan, or an apartment, and ask you to send personal information to "qualify."
- Steal your wallet, purse, backpack, or mail, and remove your credit cards, driver's license, passport, health insurance card, military ID, and other items that show personal information.
Active Duty Alert
Put an "active duty alert" on your credit report if you're deployed and don't expect to seek new credit. The alert requires creditors to take steps to verify your identity before granting credit in your name. It lasts for a year but can be renewed. Call the fraud department of one credit reporting company; they must contact the other two.
If Your Identity is Stolen:
- Read your credit reports. You have a right to a free credit report every 12 months from each of the three nationwide credit reporting companies. Order all three reports at once, or order one report every four months. To order, go to www.annualcreditreport.com or call 1-877-322-8228.
- Read your bank, credit card, and account statements, and the explanation of medical benefits from your health plan. If a statement has mistakes or doesn't come on time, contact the business.
- Shred all documents that show personal, financial, and medical information before you throw them away.
- Don't respond to email, text, and phone messages that ask for personal information. Legitimate companies don't ask for information this way. Delete the messages.
- Create passwords that mix letters, numbers, and special characters. Don't use the same password for more than one account.
- If you shop or bank online, use websites that protect your financial information with encryption. An encrypted site has "https" at the beginning of the web address; "s" is for secure.
- If you use a public wireless network, don't send information to any website that isn't fully encrypted.
- Use anti-virus and anti-spyware software, and a firewall on your computer.
- Set your computer's operating system, web browser, and security system to update automatically.
1. Flag Your Credit Reports
Call one of the nationwide credit reporting companies, and ask for a fraud alert on your credit report. The company you call must contact the other two so they can put fraud alerts on your files. An initial fraud alert is good for 90 days.
- Equifax 1-800-525-6285
- Experian 1-888-397-3742
- TransUnion 1-800-680-7289
2. Order Your Credit Reports
Each company's credit report about you is slightly different, so order a report from each company. When you order, you must answer some questions to prove your identity. Read your reports carefully to see if the information is correct. If you see mistakes or signs of fraud, contact the credit reporting company.
3. Create an Identity Theft Report
An Identity Theft Report can help you get fraudulent information removed from your credit report, stop a company from collecting debts caused by identity theft, and get information about accounts a thief opened in your name. To create an Identity Theft Report:
- File a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) at www.ftc.gov/complaint or 1-877-438-4338; TTY: 1-866-653-4261. Your completed complaint is called an FTC Affidavit.
- Take your FTC Affidavit to your local police, or to the police where the theft occurred, and file a police report. Get a copy of the police report.
The two documents comprise an Identity Theft Report.
Explain the situation to your commanding officer. You don't want your C.O. taken by surprise if contacted by creditors looking to collect on charges made by the identity thief. You also may want a referral to a legal assistance office.
For More Information
The FTC works 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 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. Watch a video, How to File a Complaint, at www.ftc.gov/video to learn more. The FTC enters consumer complaints into the Consumer Sentinel Network, a secure online database and investigative tool used by hundreds of civil and criminal law enforcement agencies in the U.S. and abroad.
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