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Schriever Judge Advocate office offers tips on preventing identity theft

SCHRIEVER AIR FORCE BASE, Colo. -- According to a release from the Department of Veterans Affairs approximately 1.1 million active duty members, 430,000 National Guardsmen, 645,000 Reservists and millions of Veterans Affairs members were affected by the recent theft of personal records. 

Servicemembers may report potential identity theft by working with any of the three credit reporting agencies, Equifax, Experian or TransUnion.  

The Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) details measures the credit reporting agencies must follow when receiving fraud alerts. Along with an annual free credit report there is also an alert that can be established for certain active duty personnel. 

Servicemembers may file an initial fraud alert. A national credit reporting agency receiving the fraud alert must pass along the information to the other two reporting agencies. Servicemembers need only report to one agency, and all three will act. 

A member who is potentially in the VA data pool may opt to use the following protections: 

Initial Fraud Alert
– A member can place a fraud alert on his consumer reports based on being in the potential VA data pool. The initial alert lasts for 90 days and entitles members to a free credit report. Placing a fraud alert may slow down servicemembers’ ability to apply for credit because the potential creditor will have to independently verify their identity. 

Credit Monitoring Service – Each of the three national credit reporting agencies and other private companies have a service to monitor the activity on a credit report and provide periodic updates. Credit monitoring services are used as a tool to spot problems and provide peace of mind. They will not prevent identify theft but will provide early notice of unauthorized activity. Members should check with each company to determine the one best suited to their needs. Be aware that there is a fee for this service. 

Free Annual Credit Report – In addition to the free credit report provided with the initial fraud alert, individuals can get a free credit report at any time once a year by going to: https://www.annualcreditreport.com or calling 877-322-8228, or by completing the Annual Credit Report Request form available at www.ftc.gov/credit.  

Since credit reports are snapshots in time, it is advisable for members to stagger requests, e.g., Experian in January, TransUnion in May and Equifax in September. 
An actual identity theft victim should immediately place an initial fraud alert and file a police report, close any accounts that have been compromised or opened fraudulently as well as file a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission. 

Extended Fraud Alert – Once the servicemember has filed a report with the police, they can use that report to have an extended fraud alert placed on their credit report. This alert will be active for seven years unless the member has it removed. It also entitles members to two free credit reports within 12 months. As with the initial alert, extended alerts may slow down a servicemember’s ability to get credit. 

“Active-Duty” Alert – The FCRA established a new alert just for military members. It works like the fraud alert, but is only for active-duty and reservists who are away from their normal duty station within the United States. It also minimizes the risk of identity theft in that a potential creditor must verify the member’s identity before issuing credit. This is a potential option to establish peace of mind for military members deploying or going TDY. 

To prevent possible identity theft, servicemembers can contact the following reporting agencies:

Equifax: www.equifax.com; 800-525-6285

Experian: www.experian.com; 888-EXPERIAN

TransUnion: www.transunion.com; 800-680-7289

To receive your free annual credit report, servicemembers can mail the Annual Credit Report Request form available at www.ftc.gov/credit to:

Annual Credit Report Request Service
P.O. Box 105281
Atlanta  GA  30348-5281