If you are about to deploy, taking preventive measures against identity theft may not feel like a top priority. Before protecting our country, however, it is important to protect yourself, and your finances, from identity-related crimes.
While all Americans need to take proactive measures against identity theft, deployed military personnel are at a higher risk because they are unavailable to monitor fraudulent account activity.
Before deploying, consider the following suggestions to help prevent identity theft.
Check your credit.
First and foremost, check your credit report. Contact the three biggest credit reporting agencies (CRAs):
Keep records of all your calls and letters to these companies.
Review the report carefully, looking for inaccuracies, suspicious information, or accounts and credit inquiries you did not authorize.
Be sure to resolve any errors before you leave.
Place a limit on your credit account.
When speaking with a CRA, request that an "Active Duty Alert" be placed on your account. You may be required to provide your name, address, Social Security number, and other personal information.
- This alert requires creditors to verify your identity before granting credit in your name
- Ask the agency you contact to notify the other two agencies regarding the Active Duty Alert
- An Active Duty Alert is only valid for one year
- If your deployment lasts longer, you may place a second alert
- Placing an Active Duty Alert on your account will remove your name from marketing lists for prescreened credit card offers for two years
Cancel convenience checks.
Contact your credit card companies and explain that you are leaving for deployment. Request that convenience checks not be sent while you are away.
This may also be a good time to request that all of your accounts be switched to electronic billing. This willhelp limit sensitive mail being delivered while you are away.
Protect your documents.
Before you leave, secure your Social Security card, birth certificate, tax records, and other sensitive information in a safe, a safety deposit box, or in the care of a trusted adult.
Shred any documents you no longer need that contain personally identifying information.
Carefully vet a power of attorney and/or friend.
Although an uncomfortable topic to broach, military identity theft often occurs at the hands of a loved one or trusted friend. In order to prevent this, consider:
- Vetting a person before granting them potentially life-altering permissions
- Speaking with the Judge Advocate General's office for your military branch before appointing a power of attorney
Following these steps before deploying will help keep your identity secure while you are away. You might also consider asking a friend to take care of household chores, like mowing the lawn or checking the perimeter of your home. An empty house can be a prime target for burglars and thieves.
Funded by a partnership with the Texas Legislature, and powered by the Center for Identity, IDWise is a resource center for the public on identity theft, fraud, and privacy.