Through December 31, 2023, Experian, TransUnion and Equifax will offer all U.S. consumers free weekly credit reports through AnnualCreditReport.com to help you protect your financial health during the sudden and unprecedented hardship caused by COVID-19.
As a member of the Army currently overseas, what can I do to protect my credit? I heard something about placing an "active-duty alert" on my credit that only allows credit to be opened if I directly approve.
Members of the armed forces on active duty can add an active-duty alert to their credit report to help better protect themselves from fraud and identity theft while deployed overseas.
How Does an Active-Duty Alert Work?
An active-duty alert does not prevent lenders from accessing your credit report. Rather, it notifies lenders and others checking your credit that you are a member of the U.S. military and that you are currently on active duty. An active-duty alert does not require a lender to contact you directly to get your approval before granting credit in your name, but it does ask them to verify the identity of the applicant first. If you choose, you can add a telephone number where you can be reached to the alert. Active-duty alerts remain on the credit report for one year.
When you add an active-duty alert, Experian shares your request with the other two credit reporting companies (TransUnion and Equifax) so they can add an alert to their records as well. As an added precaution, Experian will remove your name from lists for preapproved credit offers for two years.
Protecting Yourself From Identity Theft and Fraud
It's a good idea to check your credit report frequently, especially if you believe you may be a victim of fraud or identity theft. Checking your credit report often can help you detect and address potential fraud and identity theft more quickly. It can also help you ensure that your credit report remains up to date and accurate while you are deployed.
You can order a free credit report once every 12 months from each of the three credit reporting agencies by going online to AnnualCreditReport.com. In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, Experian, Equifax and TransUnion are currently offering these free credit reports to all Americans weekly. You can also request your free credit report (and FICO® Score☉ ) directly from Experian anytime. Active-duty military members can get free credit monitoring from Experian with IDnotify™, which includes access to an updated credit report every 30 days and daily alerts when there are key changes to your credit history.
What Steps Should I Take if I Become a Victim of Fraud?
If you do discover that you've been a victim of identity theft or credit fraud, here are some steps you can take:
- Contact the lender or company where the fraud occurred. Whether it's a new account opened using your identification information or fraudulent charges made on one of your existing accounts, contact the company immediately to notify them of the situation. They will let you know what they need from you in order to complete a fraud investigation on their end.
- Add a fraud alert to your credit report. An initial fraud alert lasts for one year. It serves to alert anyone checking your credit report that your information has been compromised and that someone may be trying to apply for credit or services fraudulently.
- Report the identity theft. Consider filing a police report or identity theft report with your local law enforcement agency. You can then send a copy of the report to your creditor to aid in their investigation. Keep the original on hand in case you need it in the future.
- Contact Experian to dispute fraudulent information. If the fraudulent information is appearing on your credit report, you can request a dispute via our online Dispute Center.
- Consider adding an extended fraud victim alert. An extended alert lasts for seven years and asks that the lender call you at one of two phone numbers you provide before extending credit or services in your name. To add an extended alert, you must provide a copy of the police report you filed.
You can find more tips on how to protect yourself from credit fraud and steps to take if you've been a victim of identity theft right here on Experian's blog.
Thank you for your service to our country and thanks for asking.
Jennifer White, Consumer Education Specialist