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Lessons and stories from the front lines of fighting identity theft.

 

Military Members at Greater Risk of Identity Theft

Nov 11

It’s November, a time of falling leaves, cool crisp evenings, gentle snowfall in some parts of the country, and several holidays. Nearly a century ago, World War I ended on November 11, 1918. One year later, President Wilson selected November 11 as a day to honor those who had represented the country in the armed forces and it the date became a legal holiday in 1938. However, feeling gratitude for the country’s service men and women doesn’t extend to identity thieves. In fact, members of the military are at greater risk of identity theft and many don’t know how to protect themselves. 

In a recent conversation with one of ProtectMyID’s identity theft resolution specialists, I was told that members of our military are at increased risk of identity theft for a number of reasons. The wide use of Social Security numbers as identifiers in the military, combined with the fact that long deployment periods make it easy for identity theft to go undetected, make this group of individuals prime targets for crime.

Upon speaking about this with our contacts at the Identity Theft Resource Center, they provided the following tips. If you suspect that your military spouse has been victimized by identity theft, read the information below on how to begin responding to the situation.

Identity Theft Resource Center Military Fact Sheet (excerpt)

There are no exceptions to identity theft. If you serve in the military you are not exempt. Military dependents, whether adults or minors, are not excluded. If you are a victim of identity theft and are over the age of 18 you will need to take the following actions:

  1. Order copies of all three credit reports using the Credit Reporting Agencies’ (CRAs) automated Fraud Alert System. Listen for the option to place a 90-Day Fraud Alert. Upon placement, the CRAs will notify you of the placement via written notice giving you the opportunity to order  detailed copies of your credit reports. 
  2. Contact the CRAs via telephone: Equifax 1-800-525-6285, Experian 1-888-397-3742, and TransUnion 1-800-680-7289.
  3. If you are unable to place a 90-Day Fraud Alert via the telephone system, you will have to send a written request to the three Credit Reporting Agencies via mail:
    Equifax: PO Box 740241, Atlanta, GA 30374
    Experian: PO Box 9701, Allen, TX 75013
    TransUnion: PO Box 6790, Fullerton, CA 92834
  4. Once you have received your credit reports, mark every fraudulent account that appears on the reports and file a police report for identity theft with your local police department. Be sure to obtain a copy of the police report. Note: Military Police does not take reports for identity theft.
  5. The next step is to contact each company that appears on your credit reports showing a fraudulent account. You will need to contact the Fraud Departments of these companies.
  6. Request that the company send you an Identity Theft Affidavit. The company will request a copy of your police report and any other documentation they deem appropriate or necessary.
  7. Upon submission of the proper documentation, you will receive written notification via mail informing you of the company’s decision based on their investigation.
  8. Note: Documentation should be sent via Certified Mail Return Receipt Requested.

Active Duty Alerts

Deployments are a common aspect of military life. If you will be deploying, you can place an Active Duty Alert on all three of your credit reports. An Active Duty Alert is similar to a fraud alert in that it requires an inquiring creditor to verify that it is you who is attempting to open a line of credit, however, unlike the 90-Day Fraud Alert, this alert is good for 1-year. If you are going to be deployed outside of the country and cannot be contacted, you may appoint somebody you trust to act as your representative.

To contact the three CRAs via mail, send a written request for the placement of the alert. Refer to Letter Form 133. You may use this template as your written request. Make sure that you include the documentation requested at the bottom of the form for a successful placement of the alert. The documentation should accompany each written request and it should be mailed via Certified Mail Return Receipt Requested.

You may also place an Active Duty Alert online through the following links:

Note: If you have granted Power of Attorney to a friend or family member, the holder of the POA may place the Active Duty Alert on your behalf by including a copy of the Power of Attorney to the Credit Reporting Agencies.

Power of Attorney

Service members in the U.S. Military often consider granting a Power of Attorney to a spouse or loved one before they deploy. Although this can be a good idea and often necessary, please be careful. Unfortunately, many service members have found out too late that the person they gave a General Power of Attorney to did not have their best interest in mind. They come home to find their bank accounts cleaned out, credit cards opened in their name, and other credit problems that are all legally possible with General Power of Attorney. Accounts or lines of credit granted via manner of a Power of Attorney do not qualify as Identity Theft. 

The ITRC strongly suggests that you consult with the Judge Advocate General Office for Command Legal Assistance prior to granting any Power of Attorney.

These tips should not be used in lieu of legal advice. Any requests to reproduce this material, other than by individual victims for their own use, should be directed to ITRC@idtheftcenter.org.

Read more about the History of Veteran’s Day.

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