The first national Military Consumer Protection Day will take place July 17. The day is aimed at spreading awareness to military service members and their families on how to protect against identity theft.
The Federal Trade Commission said it received more than 62,000 identity theft complaints from servicemembers, veterans and their spouses in 2012. The frequent relocation and steady income of military families can make them prime targets to identity thieves. This encouraged the FTC and partners to sponsor the new awareness day.
"It's a great day to empower military and veteran communities with information as the first line of defense against consumer fraud," the FTC said on its website.
Identify a Scam
The FTC offers identity theft tips for servicemembers on how to identify and avoid scams. Scammers are becoming more sophisticated, coming up with creative ways to access and steal people's personal information. Phishing scams, for example, are popular. These are when a criminal attempts to gather sensitive personal data from someone so they can then defraud the person.
Because some of these phishing scams are fraudulent text messages or emails that look real to consumers, like a message from their bank, many fall for them. The Consumer Federal of America - a nonprofit organization - has released a document with popular phishing scams to keep consumers up to date on what attempts criminals are making to obtain personal information.
Checking this list, as well as periodically checking a credit report, can help a person identify suspicious activity. Military servicemembers and their spouses can obtain a free credit score from the FINRA Foundation when they take the Military Saves pledge.
The FTC suggests servicemembers have a $500 to $1,000 emergency fund in place in case they are a victim of a "fast money" scam.
A recent report by Scambook said military families face a higher risk of identity theft when they are deploying or put in charge of a new assignment. The online complaint resolution platform said military members should place an "Active Duty Alert" on credit reports when they are about to deploy to a new location. This will make it more difficult for identity thieves to open a new account in a service member's name.
Arkansas Attorney General Dustin McDaniel voiced his support for national Military Consumer Protection Day this week.
"We owe our safety and our country's strength to the men and women of our armed forces," McDaniel said. "We also owe it to them to give them the tools and resources they need to avoid the types of scams and fraud that often affect service members. It is my hope that they will be equipped to protect themselves in the consumer marketplace."