Military Members Should Order Credit Reports After Service

When serving overseas or even at home, one of the last things that might be on the minds of most military members is their credit health, but any time one lets their guard down where their financial health is concerned, they may need to later do more to protect themselves.

One of the first things military members should do after they return from active duty is make sure to check their credit reports closely, and this is for a number of reasons. First and foremost, a credit report contains information on all accounts listed in a person's name, and therefore will help them to determine whether any entries on the document are there without their knowledge.

Signs of problems, and how to fix them
Of course, just discovering an entry that one doesn't recognize isn't necessarily a sign they have been hit with identity theft. Sometimes, companies that report to the three major credit bureaus make some sort of mistake in doing so — such as transposing digits in someone's Social Security number or reporting accounts for people with the same name — and that can lead to plenty of difficulties. Some estimates show that as much as 80 percent of all consumers' credit reports have some sort of error that can drag down what should otherwise be a good credit score.

Unfortunately, though, identity theft is also a very real problem affecting millions of Americans every year as well, and military members are often not immune to the pervasive spread of this type of crime. Thus, checking a credit report over closely can help to identify signs that a person's sensitive data has been stolen and used to open such an account.

For military members who are just returning home from active duty, it is therefore important to make sure any such entries are identified and cleared up as soon as possible. Contacting the credit bureau that issued the report about the problems one finds is of the utmost importance, but in some cases, that organization may require the consumer to provide evidence that they are not responsible for the account in question. This may not always be easy, but it is vital to maintaining good credit health, and therefore should be pursued as diligently as possible until the issue is cleared up.

However, during active service, the day-to-day management of some accounts may still go awry, and checking this document will also help borrowers with existing accounts determine exactly what those missteps might have been. Armed with that knowledge, it can be easier to remediate whatever issues might have come along, and get the borrower back on the path to having an improved credit score, which can help to make their future borrowing efforts more affordable.

What family members can do to better protect their loved ones
Of course, a major part of maintaining good credit health in the military is also being aware of what safeguards are available to help servicemembers keep up their protections during those times when it's understandable that they won't be able to be vigilant. For this reason, it's a good idea for military members to take out active duty alerts, or have their family members do it for them.

By using this tool available to military members, they will be better protected from someone trying to use their personal information to open a line of fraudulent credit in their name, or a company listing someone else's account in their name through human error. This is because it will let credit bureaus know that the person is currently serving in the military and would therefore be extremely unlikely to be seeking a new credit card or other type of loan.

Identity thieves might choose to target military members in particular because despite the fact that these credit protections exist, many simply do not take advantage of them. Therefore, these criminals might see a tour of duty as an opportunity to open some kind of loan, rack up thousands of dollars or more in someone else's name, and then have their victim go months or even years without discovering the crime took place. At that point, it may be very difficult for the military member to remediate the problem, and that kind of time passing at least makes it far more difficult for them to track down the culprit.

Checking credit reports can not only help military members discover entries that might be indicative of identity theft or other errors, but there may be other unfair markings marring such a document as well. As such, it can be a good idea to contact a credit repair company about these items, as such a firm may be able to help fix the problem and return the borrower's credit standing to where it deserves to be.

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