Active-duty military members face incredible stress. Whether they’re in combat zones or serving during times of peace, our service members experience challenges civilians may not consider, including being deployed and away from loved ones for months at a time.
So if you’re serving in the military, you may not be focused on opening new credit accounts or taking out loans. But putting an active-duty alert on your credit report makes it harder for thieves to open an account in your name, which can’t replace precious time with your family, but it can help alleviate concerns about identity theft while you’re deployed.
What Is an Active-Duty Alert?
An active-duty alert tells potential creditors and lenders you’re deployed and they should verify your identity before giving you credit. It appears on all three of your credit reports from the major credit bureaus: Experian, Equifax and TransUnion.
An active-duty alert functions in the same way as an initial fraud alert. Before granting credit, the lender should make a phone call to determine that you were the one who filled out the application.
Once you apply for an active-duty alert with one of the three major bureaus — Equifax, TransUnion, and Experian — that bureau must share the information with the other two credit bureaus. That means you only need to fill out the online application or mail the paperwork once. If you’re deployed, you can give a representative power of attorney (legal authority) to verify your identity or remove the active-duty alert for you.
As an added benefit, with an active-duty alert on your credit report, you won’t receive prescreened credit card or insurance offers for two years after placing the alert. You can also receive two free credit reports from each credit bureau the year you place an active-duty alert.
How Active-Duty Alerts Work
Once you fill out the application for an active-duty alert, it becomes harder for someone — including you — to take out a loan or apply for credit in your name. That can protect you from headaches and stress while you’re serving your country.
When a creditor sees an active-duty alert on your credit file, they’re supposed to call the phone number you provided to verify your identity before processing the application. You can easily remove the active-duty alert or change the phone number with the credit bureau where you initially filed the alert.
How Long Does an Active-Duty Alert Last?
An active-duty alert lasts for one year from the date it’s granted or until you remove it, whichever comes first. While you only have to apply for an active-duty alert with one bureau, you must remove them from all three of your credit reports individually.
However, your name stays off mailing lists for prescreened credit card and insurance offers for two years. You can also reapply for an active-duty alert after your first one expires.
If you’re a victim of identity theft, it’s better to apply for an extended fraud alert, which stays on your credit report for seven years.
How to Set Up an Active-Duty Alert
Setting up an active-duty alert is easy and free. You can do it online or by mail. The process differs slightly among all three credit bureaus, but the basic process is similar.
- Choose where you’d like to file your active-duty fraud alert. Decide if you’d like to file your alert with TransUnion, Experian, or Equifax. The credit bureau you use will pass the information on to the other two.
- Gather the appropriate information. You must provide your legal name, Social Security number, and address.
- Submit the form. If you typically use a particular bureau to manage your credit score, use that one. Otherwise, you can use any of the three. You have the option to mail the form, use the website, or call the toll-free number.
P.O. Box 105069
Atlanta, GA 30348-5069
P.O. Box 9554
Allen, TX 75013
P.O. Box 2000
Chester, PA 19016
It may not be as easy to keep tabs on your finances or review credit card statements while you’re serving. But placing an active-duty alert on your credit reports makes it harder for thieves to steal your identity or open credit cards in your name.
But you don’t have to stop there. TransUnion provides an additional service. TransUnion Active Duty Credit Monitoring offers unlimited access to your TransUnion credit report daily and emailed alerts if the service detects any significant changes to your credit report. Your subscription lasts for two years. After that, you may have to recertify your status as active-duty military.
Today’s tools make it easy for military members serving at home or overseas to keep tabs on their credit and manage their financial future. Leveraging active-duty fraud alerts, TransUnion’s credit monitoring, and financial products designed for active military members and veterans can help you save money and protect your credit as you serve your country.