Military Consumer Protection Month

By Molly Herndon

July marks the month that many agencies focus education efforts and resources available to those working to protect the military consumer.

Military service members and their families are at heightened risk for fraud, scams, and identity theft. Frequent moves and deployments that take the service member away from their daily observation of their finances, as well as lack of financial experience are some of the reasons service members are more frequently targeted by scammers than civilians.

Navy Officer greeting her young daughter.
Photo By: Navy Lt. j.g. Jasmine Spencer

More banking and shopping are done online than ever before, and data breaches are becoming nearly weekly occurrences. How can military families protect their finances and personal information?

Prevention

Regular maintenance of your financial transactions and reviewing your credit report annually are the best ways to become aware of identity theft, but consumers can also take additional steps to prevent identity theft, like credit freezing. Because of their unique circumstances, service members in particular can benefit from this.

A credit freeze, or security freeze, prevents new credit lines from being opened using your name. As of September 2018, Equifax, TransUnion, and Experian offer freezing and unfreezing services free.

A fraud alert is another option to guard against an imposter opening credit using your information. A fraud alert does not prevent new lines of credit from being opened but it does require an additional layer of security protection. For example, a lender may be required to make a phone call to confirm your identity before opening the new credit line. An extended fraud alert can be placed on your credit for 7 years and entitles the consumer to two free credit reports annually.

For service members, an active duty alert is also available. This protection requires lenders to make “a reasonable effort” to confirm the person’s true identity before issuing credit during the active duty alert, which lasts 12 months. Service members using this service also have their names removed from nationwide credit reporting companies’ pre-screened marketing lists for 2 years.

The CFPB released an Identity Theft Protection Guide in May 2019, which offers additional resources for those wishing to protect their identity and credit.

Extended Fraud Alert Credit Freeze
Lets you have access to your credit report as long as companies take steps to verify your identity, Stops all access to your credit report unless you lift or remove it.
Free to place and remove. Available if someone stole your identity. Free to place and remove. Available to anyone.
Lasts for 7 years. Lasts until you lift or remove it.
Set it by contacting each of the three credit bureaus:

· Report that someone stole your identity. Request an extended fraud alert.

· Complete any necessary forms and send a copy of your FTC Identity Theft Report.

 

Set it by contacting each of the three credit bureaus.

Response

However, even with vigilance and protective measures, data breaches and scams still happen. What can consumers do to fix the damage done to their accounts after their information has been stolen?

Man writing at desk
Courtesy of the FTC/Military Consumer Protection Month

Once you become aware that your identity has been stolen, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) offers a 5-step check list for controlling the damage, recovering your personal information, and pursuing legal action against the thieves, if necessary.

Webinar

On July 30, Attorney Carol Kando-Pineda of the FTC will present Staying Safe Online: Protecting Your Finances and Data. Join us for this 90-minute look at the newest scams and ways you can help clients prevent becoming victims. RSVP and learn more here.

References

The Fed – The Federal Reserve Payments Study: 2017 Annual Supplement. (2019). Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System. Retrieved 4 June 2019, from https://www.federalreserve.gov/paymentsystems/2017-December-The-Federal-Reserve-Payments-Study.htm

Identity Theft and Scams. (2019). Militaryonesource.mil. Retrieved 4 June 2019, from https://www.militaryonesource.mil/financial-legal/personal-finance/protecting-your-finances/keep-a-sharp-eye-out-for-identity-theft-and-scams

Identity Theft Recovery Steps | IdentityTheft.gov. (2019). Identitytheft.gov. Retrieved 4 June 2019, from https://www.identitytheft.gov/steps

What does it mean to put a security freeze on my credit report? . (2019). Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. Retrieved 4 June 2019, from https://www.consumerfinance.gov/ask-cfpb/what-does-it-mean-to-put-a-security-freeze-on-my-credit-report-en-1341/

 

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