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Identity Theft ? Additional Protection for Soldiers on Active Duty

Congress passed the Fair Credit Reporting Act several years ago in an attempt to smooth out some problems in the credit reporting industry. The best known provision of this Act is one that permits Americans to receive a free copy of their credit reports from each of the three main credit bureaus once per year. So far, this provision of the Act has been a success. A lesser-known provision of the legislation is one that is intended to protect active duty military personnel from being victimized by identity theft while they are out of the country.

Identity theft is a crime committed by someone who obtains personal information from a victim and then uses that information to obtain loans or credit in the victim's name. While the thief is making off with the money, goods, or services, the victim is left with the bills. Being a victim of identity theft can be difficult for anyone, as it often takes several years to undo the damage done to the victim's credit report. Identity theft can be even more difficult if the victim is an active duty soldier serving outside the United States. The average victim of identity theft takes nearly a year to discover the crime; it will undoubtedly take even longer if the victim is outside of the country. The amendment to the Fair Credit Reporting Act allows active duty personnel who are away from their main duty stations to place an "active duty alert" on their credit reports. The presence of this alert requires any creditor to verify the identity of the borrower prior to granting credit in his or her name. Since it isn't usually possible to contact a soldier who is outside the country, this effectively freezes the credit report of the individual until they return from overseas service, thus protecting them from identity theft.

If you are serving the country in a military capacity, away from your active duty station, you may enact an "active duty alert" by contacting one of the three credit bureaus: Experian, Trans Union, or Equifax. It is only necessary to contact one company; that company will inform the other two. At that time, you may also designate a personal representative who will act on your behalf while you are away. This alert is active for one year, and may be renewed.

Military personnel who are serving the United States in a time of war have enough to worry about without having to be concerned about identity theft. The Fair Credit Reporting Act leaves them with one less thing to worry about.

?Copyright 2005 by Retro Marketing. Charles Essmeier is the owner of Retro Marketing, a firm devoted to informational Websites, including End-Your-Debt.com, a site devoted to establishing credit, debt consolidation and credit counseling, and HomeEquityHelp.com, a site devoted to information regarding mortgages and home equity lines of credit.

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