Identity theft remains one of the most pervasive and devastating personal and financial attacks on consumers nationwide.
The Federal Trade Commission reported more than 330,000 victims of identity theft in 2014, according to Security Technology News.
Military members are not immune to these craven financial predators. Victims may discover that their Social Security number, bank account data, or other personal information was obtained for a range of illicit purposes, with credit card and federal benefit fraud being the most popular.
It is important for service members and military families to take proper precautions to protect their personal information.
Here are a few tips to reduce the possibility that you will become a victim:
Review Your Account Statements
Criminals want to operate under the radar, which means you should regularly check your bank account statements. Thieves can slip in small charges that they hope you’ll miss. If you notice any unfamiliar charges on your accounts contact your bank right away.
Review Your Credit Report
Keeping a watch on your credit report is always a good decision. Cybercriminals can potentially use information garnered from you to open credit accounts, and leave you stuck with the bill.
By using a resource such as annualcreditreport.com, military members can review their reports from each of the three credit bureaus, Equifax, Experian, and Transunion, annually for free.
Send and Receive Less Confidential Mail
Going paperless is not only about saving the environment; receiving less confidential mail can prevent identity theft, too. Criminals love to steal confidential documents from mailboxes. To gain access to your personal information thieves are even known to redirect your mail to an alternate location.
Carry Only What You Need
Almost everyone worries that a wallet or purse will be lost or stolen. To reduce the chance of identity theft, it is best to leave confidential documents at home. Especially, leave your Social Security card in a safe place when you are not going to need it.
Additional Protection for Active Duty Service Members
Military members who are deployed or awaiting deployment should consider placing an active duty alert on their credit report. According to the Fair Credit Reporting Act, the alert requires creditors to verify your identity before granting credit in your name.
While an active duty alert can help prevent cybercriminals from using your identity for fraud while you are deployed, completely safeguarding against identity theft is impossible. However, with proper precautions and proactively checking your finances and reports, you can potentially save yourself much time and money.