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Q&A: Protect Your Identity While You're Deployed

Kim Lankford shares advice to keep identity thieves from hijacking your credit when called to active duty.

Q: I am in the Army and am about to be deployed. Should I put an activeduty alert on my credit report?

That's a great idea. An active-duty alert can protect you from identity theft, which is particularly important while you are deployed and will have a tough time monitoring your mail and accounts.


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An active-duty alert notifies creditors that you're on military active duty and asks them to take extra precautions to verify the identity of the applicant before extending credit. Include the phone number of a trusted friend or family member for creditors to call and verify your identity while you're inaccessible (be sure to give them a heads up that you've chosen them).

This alert stays on your credit file for one year and also lets you opt out for two years of promotional mail -- such as preapproved credit-card offers that could leave you susceptible to ID theft while you're away from home.


To place an active-duty alert, contact one of the three credit bureaus (, or, which will notify the other two. You'll generally find the information in the section of the bureaus' Web sites that focuses on fraud alerts.

The alert is free and will not affect your ability to use credit while you're deployed. It just helps to prevent ID thieves from taking out new credit in your name.

If you'd like extra protection, consider a credit freeze. The cost tends to be $10 per bureau ($30 for all three) to place and lift a credit freeze, but the freeze does prevent potential creditors from accessing your credit report without your permission.

Also review your credit-card and bank accounts online if possible while deployed, so you can catch any suspicious activity before you return.