DISCLAIMER: The information on this page is NOT to be construed as legal advice, and is only provided to help our clients/customers better understand the nature of our services and consultations. Legal decisions should NOT be made without consulting an Attorney.
Purpose: to protect servicemembers from unfair and deceptive business practices, fraudulent actions such as identity theft, breach of contract, and credit reporting discrepancies.
Credit: there are several steps that are recommended for all servicemembers stationed at Okinawa, Japan: (1) put an active duty alert on your credit; (2) avoid foreign credit card transactions; and (3) make regular inquiries of your credit report.
(1) Active Duty Alert: servicemembers should contact the credit reporting agencies (Experian, Equifax, and TransUnion) to put an active duty alert on your credit to help prevent credit fraud. This alert will ensure that credit cannot be taken out in your name without the creditor making direct contact with an authorized representative. The alerts are free and are good for one year at a time. Although the credit reporting agencies are required to communicate with each other, redundancy is encouraged.
(2) Foreign Credit Card Transactions: identify theft is prevalent in many parts of the world to include the United States, but many countries in which you may want to use your credit card do not have protective measures as extensive as the U.S. For example, in the U.S. you may note that your credit card receipts only print the last four numbers of your credit card; whereas, in many countries you will find that the receipts still contain all 16 digits of your credit card. Having paper receipts with the full credit card number unnecessarily exposes you to risks of identity theft or credit card fraud.
(3) Credit Report Inquiries: it is recommended that all servicemembers and dependents take advantage of new rights given by the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform Act. Specifically, the law mandates that all Americans be given a free credit report on an annual basis from each of the three credit reporting agencies to monitor their credit. Do not fall for the jingles of various commercial enterprises that claim to provide free credit reports, go to: www.annualcreditreport.com which is the actual site where you can request your credit report.
(a) Set calendar reminders to check your credit report.
(b) Request your credit report from a different agency every quarter to keep close eye on your credit report. You get one free report from each agency.
Credit Disputes: if you have a dispute with a note on your credit report, you can visit the websites for Experian, Equifax, and TransUnion to file a dispute online. There is no need to wait for the snail mail to file a dispute.
Identity Theft: if you feel you may have been a victim of identity theft take immediate action.
(1) Contact all of your banks/credit card companies to have all existing cards terminated and re-issued.
(2) Contact the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) at http://www.consumer.ftc.gov
(3) Contact the Credit Reporting Agencies: Equifax, TransUnion, and Experian to place a credit freeze on your account until the fraud is cleared. This action may cost a nominal fee but is necessary. You can place a freeze on the account through the respective websites of the agencies or by submitting a letter via postal service.
(4) File a credit dispute for any charge that appears fraudulent either directly through your bank or the credit reporting agency if it showed up on a credit report.
Best Practice Tips:
1. Consult with an attorney prior to signing any contracts, especially for payday loans, installment contracts, or purchase agreements.
2. Be mindful of deals that sound too good to be true---they are, especially if you are a young servicemember without an established credit history.
3. Live within your means- do not take out excessive debt for products or services you do not need.
4. Regularly check your bank and credit card accounts for potentially fraudulent actions; quick reactive steps are critical to mitigating the damage.
5. Monitor your credit report.
6. Do not provide credit card information over the phone.
7. Avoid foreign credit card transactions, especially from unknown businesses.