As one of our nation’s military service members, you understand the importance of a good defense. It’s probably a big part of the reason you signed up.
That’s why it’s important to know that while you’re putting your life on the line for your country, your financial defenses at home can be left vulnerable if you don’t do a few key things before you leave.
It’s a sad reality: When military personnel are away for long periods, criminals often target their identities. In fact, compared with the rest of consumers, military personnel experience “28% higher rates of new-account fraud and 18% higher rates of familiar fraud,” according to Javelin Strategy and Research. New-account fraud happens when someone obtains new credit using your personal information. And familiar fraud is when someone you know, such as a friend, fellow service member or family member uses your information for personal gain.
The reason it’s important to understand that identity fraud among military personnel happens is because if thieves are successful, you may encounter big financial and time-related headaches when you get home and try to resolve it. And that’s the last thing you need while you are trying to readjust to civilian life and buy a car or house or open new accounts.
Before you ship off, take these three steps:
- Place an active duty alert. Adding an active duty alert to your credit files indicates that businesses need to be extra careful about verifying your identity before granting credit in your name. You only need to contact one of the major credit reporting agencies — Experian, TransUnion or Equifax — and the agency you contact will alert the other two. The alert lasts for one year.
- Review your credit report. Understanding where your credit stands before you leave will make it much easier to spot fraud when you get back. That’s why experts recommend visiting Annualcreditreport.com for free copies of your current credit report from each credit reporting agency. You can get a free credit report summary, which updates every 30 days, from Credit.com.
- Carefully consider your power of attorney (POA). While you may need to assign a POA to handle personal or business affairs while you are deployed, use extreme caution because your POA is legally allowed to make decisions on your behalf for whatever is stipulated in the POA agreement. So ensure you can fully trust the person. And only give them power over things that cannot be left until you return.
If you take these three steps, your identity will be much safer while you are away. To learn about other key identity protection steps check out these additional military identity theft prevention tips.
- How to Use Free Credit Monitoring Tools
- How Does a Credit Freeze Work?
- The Signs Your Identity Has Been Stolen
This article originally appeared on Credit.com.
This article by Matt Cullina was distributed by the Personal Finance Syndication Network.