When the brave men and women of the United States Armed Forces are deployed for duty, the last thing on their mind should be whether or not someone will steal their identity while they are gone. However, identity thieves often have no moral scruples about targeting this group and actually find them to be attractive targets due to the fact that they are out of the country and perhaps left unprotected during that time. The below information will help members of the military protect themselves from becoming victims of identity theft.
Placing an Active Duty Alert:
An active duty alert is similar to a fraud alert in that it requires an inquiring creditor to verify that it is you who is attempting to open a line of credit. The difference is, unlike the 90 day fraud alert, this alert lasts for a year. Additionally, if you are deployed out of the country and cannot be contacted, you may appoint somebody you trust to act as your representative.
Military Dependants should place a 90 Day Fraud Alert with the Credit Reporting Agencies and for dependants under the age of 18 a Minor Alert should be placed on their files if fraudulent activity is suspected. Minor Alerts have to be placed through writing: ITRC Letter Form 120.
The ITRC suggests that active duty personnel consider using online banking services in order to monitor and track bank account activity. Please be aware of your environment (for example key loggers, spyware, shoulder surfing) when accessing accounts.
Power of Attorney:
Service members in the U.S. Military often consider granting a Power of Attorney to a spouse or a loved one before they are deployed. Although this can be a good idea, please be careful. There are three different categories of “Power of Attorney” which allow a person to act on your behalf and legally gain access to your information: General Power of Attorney, Special Power of Attorney, and Medical Power of Attorney.
Unfortunately, many service members have found out too late that the person they gave a General Power of Attorney to did not have their best interests in mind. They come home to find their bank accounts cleaned out, credit cards opened in their name, and other credit problems that are all legally possible due to a General Power of Attorney.
We suggest that you read the Explanation of Powers of Attorney put together by the Judge Advocate General office. This document on Powers of Attorney covers issues like: how to stay safe when filing a POA, what you will need to grant a POA depending on POA category, and how to revoke it when you are ready to. It is strongly suggested that you consult with the Judge Advocate General office for Command Legal Assistance prior to granting any Power of Attorney.
It is wise to remember that identity thieves do not discriminate when it comes to assuming an identity. Therefore, an active member of the military is just as vulnerable as any civilian. The above knowledge should help to protect those who protect us.