The Fair Credit Reporting Act allows members of the armed forces who are on deployment to place an “active duty alert” on their credit reports. This can help members of the military on active duty to prevent identity theft. The alert requires creditors to verify your identity before granting credit in your name.
Identity theft occurs when someone uses your personal information – like your name, your Social Security number, or your credit card number – to commit fraud. Identity thieves may use your information to open a new credit card account in your name. Then, when they don’t pay the bills, the delinquent account is reported on your credit report. Inaccurate or fraudulent information could affect your ability to get credit, insurance, or housing, now or in the future. People whose identities have been stolen can spend months or years cleaning up the mess the thieves have made of their names and credit records.
If you are a member of the military and away from your usual duty station, you may place an “active duty alert” on your credit report to help minimize the risk of identity theft while you are deployed. When a business sees the alert on your credit report, it must verify your identity before issuing you credit. The business may try to contact you directly, but if you’re on deployment, that may be impossible. As a result, the law allows you to use a personal representative to place or remove an alert. Active duty alerts on your report are effective for one year, unless you request that the alert be removed sooner. If your deployment lasts longer, you may place another alert on your report.
To place an “active duty” alert, or to have it removed, call the toll-free fraud number of one of the three nationwide consumer reporting companies: Equifax, Experian, or Trans Union. The company will require you to provide appropriate proof of your identity, which may include your Social Security number, your name, address, and other personal information.
- Equifax: 800-525-6285; www.equifax.com
- Experian: 888-EXPERIAN (397-3742); www.experian.com
- TransUnion: 800-680-7289; www.transunion.com
Contact only one of the three companies to place an alert – the company you call is required to contact the other two, which will place an alert on their versions of your report, as well. If your contact information changes before your alert expires, remember to update it.
When you place an active duty alert, your name will be removed from the nationwide consumer reporting companies’ marketing lists for prescreened offers of credit and insurance for two years – unless you ask that your name be placed on the lists before then. Prescreened offers – sometimes called “preapproved” offers – are based on information in your credit report.