Service members at risk for credit fraud, ID theft, senators say

Nineteen U.S. senators say they want the Pentagon to provide more information to service members on how to protect their credit ratings, and prevent identity theft, while deployed overseas.

The senators recently sent a letter to Secretary of Defense Aston Carter with questions about what the military is doing to protect service members financial well-being.

More than 2,000 Ohioans in the military are deployed overseas who “often face significant risks to their finances and their credit reports while they’re on deployment,” U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown said in a conference call Wednesday with reporters.

While deployed, military service members may have difficulty managing financial accounts and protecting their identity and could face “being targeted by predatory lenders,” said Brown, D-Ohio, who was among those who signed the letter.

“A single missed payment, for example, can have the potential to balloon into major problems that threaten financial well being,” he said. “Our men and women in uniform make enough sacrifices for our country as do their families. their credit rating should not be one of those sacrifices.”

Brown has co-sponsored the Military Families Credit Reporting Act, which would allow a service member to detail on credit reports why a payment was missed or late because of a deployment.

The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau has said more than 650 service members have submitted complaints about problems with their credit reports since October 2012, but fewer than 1 percent placed an “active duty alert” or security freeze on their credit reports while deployed, officials said.

CFPB reported service members have filed 30,000 complaints with the agency about consumer financial issues since July 2011.

“Active Duty Alerts and security freezes offer service members an important first line of defense against fraud and identity theft,” Thomas Feltner, Consumer Federation of America director of financial services, said in a statement.

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