Attorney General Peter F. Kilmartin is joining the U.S. Department of Defense, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) and other state and federal organizations, as well as military support groups and private sector groups to celebrate Military Consumer Protection Day on Wednesday, July 16, 2014. A joint initiative to empower active duty and retired service members, military families, veterans and civilians in the military community, Military Consumer Protection Day was founded in 2013.
"Our service members and their families have already sacrificed so much for our country, and it is particularly abhorrent that scam artists would try to target those who serve," said Attorney General Kilmartin. "Having had family members deployed overseas in recent years, I am familiar with some of the unique circumstances military households face – frequent relocations, deployments and often living far away from friends and family – that scam artists may try to take advantage of. Military Consumer Protection Day is a way for us to help protect the wallets of those who protect our country."
To mark Military Consumer Protection Day, Attorney General Kilmartin offers the following tips to help military members protect their personal information, recognize identity theft, deal with credit and debt, manage money and avoid fraud: • Everyone is entitled to one free credit report a year. Order your free annual credit reports on-line at: www.annualcreditreport.com or by calling (877) 322-8228. • Active duty military personnel can receive a free "active duty alert" on their credit report during periods of deployment. An "active duty alert" requires a financial institution or business to verify that the individual applying for credit is not an imposter. The "active duty alert" stays in effect for one year unless the military member or his/her personal representative requests that it be removed before the year expires. Military personnel can contact any one of the following credit reporting agencies to place an "active duty alert": o Equifax (800) 685-1111 or www.equifax.com o Experian (800) 290-5195 or www.experian.com o TransUnion (888) 909-8872 or www.transunion.com • Do not disclose your personal information unless you know who is collecting the information, why they are collecting it and how they will use the information. • Create unique and difficult to guess passwords for all of your accounts (bank accounts, credit card, smart phone, tablet, PC, gaming stations, etc.) Avoid using easily available information like your mother's maiden name, your birth date or your phone number. Use as many characters as allowed and include numbers, symbols, letters (capital and lower case). • If you are worried about your account, do not respond to the email, text, or automated call. Instead, call your financial institution or entity directly from the phone number you have from your personal records, bank statement, phone book or Internet search. • Never throw your billing statements or other personal identifying information in your trash. Shred your documents containing personal information when you no longer need them.
Tips for social networking: • Keep your personal information private. The more information you post, the easier it is for a criminal to steal your personal information and your identity. • Use tools to manage the information you share with friends in different groups.
In addition, the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act (SCRA), formerly known as the Soldiers' and Sailors' Civil Relief Act (SSCRA), is a federal law that provides protections for military members as they enter active duty. It is intended to postpone or suspend certain civil obligations to allow service members to devote full attention to duty and relieve stress on the family members of those deployed. The SCRA covers all active duty service members, reservists and members of the National Guard while on active duty. It covers issues such as mortgage foreclosure, mortgage interest rates, rental agreements, security deposits, prepaid rent, eviction, installment contracts, credit card interest rates, civil judicial proceedings, automobile leases, life insurance, health insurance and income tax payments.
A longtime supporter of veterans' issues, AG Kilmartin was recently honored with a Patriot Award from the Employer Support of the Guard and Reserves (EGSR). Nominated by AG Office staff who serve in the National Guard, the award recognizes support provided to National Guard or Reserve members by an employer.
Military Consumer Protection Day was founded in 2013, after the FTC reported receiving 62,200 complaints from military consumers. Identity theft was the most reported issue, with nearly 25,000 complaints. Other scams frequents reported by military members included debt collection, imposter scams, sweepstakes/prizes/lottery scams and banks/lender issues.