When you’ve been deployed on active duty, the last thing you should have to worry about is the potential of fraud back at home. However, identity theft and financial fraud are a sad fact of life for many service men and women when they’re far away from their families.
Luckily, there are several things you can do before your deployment to ensure that you’ve secured your information, as well as provided your financial institutions with updated details so they’re better able to help you while you’re serving your country.
Active Strategy: Beating Fraud
Over the past decade, identity theft, banking hacks and credit card fraud have become a huge problem across the globe. While most at home can keep an eye on their accounts and be aware of any fraudulent activity in a timely manner, those serving in the Armed Forces, often deployed for extended periods of time, don’t have that luxury.
However, many larger financial institutions have taken on the problem, providing alerts to active service men and women when fraud is suspected. There are also a few things you can do to ensure that your identity and accounts stay safe while you’re abroad.
1) Place an “Active Duty Alert”
Your credit report is essentially everything about you in one file. Essentially, this information falling into the wrong hands could wreak havoc on your life for years to come. The Fair Credit Reporting Act was recently amended to help those in the Armed Forces efficiently notify credit reporting agencies of their upcoming service.
Those who have service coming up only need to call one of the big three credit reporting agencies to notify them, and their file will be flagged with an “Active Duty Alert“. Any attempts made at getting credit will be met with a block, and the creditors having to verify your identity before any credit is granted in your name.
2) Notify your financial institutions
Even with your credit report flagged with an Active Duty Alert, it’s still important to let your other financial institutions know that you will be serving away from home. This will help them to verify charges made in the country of your deployment, as well as any that may be made by your family at home.
Additionally, take the time to review with all of your accounts that they have the correct contact details for you, including email addresses, and that your beneficiaries are updated.
You can never be too careful. Even the retail giant, Target, had a security breach. Per an article by DeVore Law Office, “As many as 40 million shoppers who used their credit or debit cards at Target stores during the height of the holiday shopping season may have been hacked. Shoppers at stores around the country may have had their financial information compromised.” So, pilfering information from an unsecured household would be child’s play.
3) Power of Attorney representative
It’s important that someone you trust, such as your partner or a family member, has access to your accounts should something happen to you or financial decisions need to be made.
These can generally be done online, but some states do require a Notary signature to make them official. Be sure to send a copy to all of your financial institutions to ensure they know your wishes.
4) Be prepared… just in case
If you or your Power of Attorney representative do detect fraud on any of your accounts or credit reports, it’s important that you deal with it as soon as possible. Dealing with the aftermath of fraud can be extremely involved, so contacting a fraud attorney may be a viable option for you to help deal with the issue. They can provide legal advice, as well as let you know what you may or may not be responsible for.
When you’re proudly serving your country overseas, your mind should be able to stay on the job rather than what’s going on with your bank account at home. Take advantage of services that credit reporting agencies and financial institutions have set up for those in active service. That and some pre-deployment planning can save you a lot of headaches down the line.
Domonique Powell was a military spouse for several years and has witnessed how information can be left vulnerable. An online search for fraud protection brought across the website of DeVore Law Office which provided useful information that contributed to this article.
photo credit: http://www.flickr.com/photos/familymwr/5285730695/