Military Members and Families Fight Identity Theft

This Memorial Day let’s remember that our brave fighting men and women face the additional burden of increased risk of identity theft both during and after their lives. Frequent travel, valuable benefits and other factors make them targets for criminals off all types but a few tips can help us protect them.

Frequent Deployments Increase Vulnerability

Whenever someone moves frequently or lives with strangers who have access to their personal belongings and their mail, especially after they move on, they will be at an increased risk of identity theft. The classic scenario we think of at MyProfyle are college students with multiple roommates they may not know well and a new apartment, shared house or dorm room every year. Military personnel face a similar situation.

Changing duty stations put military personal in a vulnerable situation and can place their family back home at a similar risk. Military personnel and their families should consider paperless statements and other ways to reduce the amount and frequency of documentation travelling across the country and the world to them and have such correspondence go to the homes of parents or other trustworthy loved ones who will not be moving.

Scams Are All Too Common

The Army says the most common type of scams affecting military members are:

  • Romance Scams
  • Identity Theft
  • Internet Extortion including “sextortion”
  • Phishing/Spoofing
  • Spam
  • Third Party Receiver of Funds

Not surprisingly, these are the same types of crimes affecting all Americans and Identity theft is near the top of the list. In fact, Identity Theft was the second most reported complaint filed by those in the military community to the Federal Trade Commission in 2016 according.

According to the Military Times, of the 115, 984 complaints filed in 2016, 30% were related to identity theft. Approximately two thirds of all complaints (not just identity theft) were from retirees and veterans.

So, What Should You Do?

There are a few things active-duty military can do to protect themselves.

  1. Active Duty Alert. The credit bureaus allow service members to place a special fraud alert on their credit reports. This lasts for one year instead of the traditional 30 days. Unfortunately, its important to understand that a fraud alert is merely a request to be contacted prior to opening an account. It makes no requirement that an organization follow any specific security steps. Military members might wish to consider a credit freeze to obtain greater security despite the added inconvenience. Contact any one credit bureau and they should forward your request to the other two.

  2. Credit Freeze. A credit freeze essentially locks your credit file and restricts access to it in most cases unless an organization is already granting you credit. The expectation is that if a new organization cannot review your credit report they will not open up a new credit account in your name, thus preventing a fraudulent account from being obtained. It’s not free and the cost and process for freezing and unfreezing your credit report(s) is different for residents of each state. You may need to unfreeze your credit report when you wish to rent an apartment, apply for a job, or obtain auto insurance in addition to applying for credit.

  3. www.AnnualCreditReport.com Allows you to access your free annual credit reports each year. MyProfyle also has a tool called CRANE that helps you schedule the optimum time to retrieve them throughout the year. It’s a good idea to keep tabs on your credit reports. Just remember, your credit report only represents a small portion of your identity – in fact, only about of all identity transactions are found on a credit report. Most banking, medical, insurance, employment and government activity to name a few, will never show up there.
  • General Safety. There are a host of other tips that apply to anyone including the following:
    • Strong Passwords
    • Paperless Statements
    • Not Carrying your SSN card
    • Not clicking on links or attachments in Suspicious Emails
    • Never giving our your Passwords or Account numbers over the phone

Next Steps

At MyProfyle, we believe this threat is further proof that everyone’s information is at risk from many different sources and that we are all exposed multiple times per year. The solution to identity fraud is not to try to lock your identity or seek unobtainable privacy but to control your identity – not just your credit – by putting yourself in the position know of, approve or decline activity conducted in your name. That’s MyProfyle Free For Life ™ Identity Protection.

References

US Army Social Media Scams

Military Times

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