Every year, thousands of servicemembers report to us about their consumer experiences. Those reports are the focus of the FTC’s Data Spotlight, Identity theft causing outsized harm to our troops. From an analysis of the data, we can see that servicemembers often face consumer challenges that differ from those faced by their civilian counterparts – especially when it comes to identity theft. For instance, active duty servicemembers are 76% more likely than other adults to report that an identity thief misused one of their existing accounts, such as a bank account or credit card. Most notably, they are nearly three times as likely to report that someone used a debit card or some other electronic means to take money directly from their bank account. The Spotlight goes on to discuss other associated issues that servicemembers face, including identity theft-related debt collection and problems with credit bureaus.
Here are some steps that can help servicemembers reduce the risk of identity theft.
- Check your bank account regularly. Report a lost or stolen debit card or unauthorized transactions immediately.
- To prevent someone from misusing your debit or credit cards, many banks will let you temporarily lock or freeze your card online or through their mobile app. You can quickly and easily unlock the card at any time the same way.
- Don’t give out authentication information – including PIN numbers or verification codes – to anyone who calls, emails, or texts you. If you didn’t initiate the contact, you can bet it’s a scam.
- Sign up for free credit monitoring, available to active duty servicemembers, to get notifications of activity on your credit reports.
- Put an active duty alert on your credit reports if you’re deploying. Alerts require creditors to take steps to verify your identity before granting credit in your name.
If you suspect identity theft, go to IdentityTheft.gov to report it and start the recovery process. And servicemembers: check out MilitaryConsumer.gov to get tips and tools for your financial readiness.