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What is an active duty alert for members of the military?

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 or Social Security number—to commit fraud. Identity thieves might use your information to open a new credit 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 could be impossible. As a result, the law allows you to assign a personal representative to place or remove the 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 credit reporting companies: Equifax, Experian or Trans Union. The company will require you to provide proof of your identity, which might include your Social Security number, name, address and other personal information.

Contact only one of the three companies to place an alert—the company you contact 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 credit 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.

 

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