Imagine returning home from deployment only to discover that while you were gone, you become a victim of identity theft.
This scenario may sound a little far-fetched, but the sad truth is that deployed servicemembers are a ripe target for identity thieves. To help minimize the risk of someone stealing your identity during your deployment you can place what’s known as an "active duty" alert in your credit report.
How the Alert Protects You
Upon filing an active duty alert, your credit report is flagged. Any business that issues credit in your name must verify your identity before they can open the account. In most cases, that verification gets handled via a phone call. However reaching a deployed servicemember isn’t always feasible. In such cases, you can designate a spouse or someone else that you trust to handle the verification process.
Placing the Alert
Placing an active duty alert is easy and well worth your time. Simply contact one of the following three credit bureaus (either by phone or through their website) and request that an active duty alert be placed on your credit report. You'll be asked to prove your identity (typically by providing your name, social security number, your current and previous addresses, and a copy of a government-issued ID).
- TransUnion: 1-800-680-7289
Please note: You need to contact only one of the three reporting bureaus. The company that you speak with is required to notify the other two reporting agencies within 24 hours. Interestingly, placing an active duty alert triggers something very nice: the credit bureaus will take your name off of their list for pre-screened credit offers for two years.
That means no more of those annoying solicitations. OF course, if you really want those offers, all you have to do is ask, and the companies will be more than happy to put you back on the list.
When you make the call to the credit bureau or you send in any requested information, be sure to keep detailed records of the dates and times of the calls and make copies of any correspondence. If something goes wrong, you'll want to have proof that you took the necessary steps to protect yourself.
Ideally, you’ll want to place the active duty alert prior to deploying. If that’s not possible, you can still make the request from any location worldwide.
After the alert is placed, it’ll stay on your report for up to one year. At any given time you may cancel or extend the alert by calling one of the three credit bureaus listed above.
Updated by Armin Brott, August 2016