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Special needs of military for consumer protection recognized

In a gesture somewhat overdo but almost worth the wait, the federal government formally recognized Military Consumer Protection Day on July 17.

According to a wide array of sources, improving ways to keep men and women who have honorably served their country from falling prey to scams isn’t going to stop at only one day a year.

“Today, July 17, 2013, the FBI joins other government agencies, advocacy organizations, and private sector groups to celebrate the first annual Military Consumer Protection Day, kicking off a year-round campaign to empower military and veteran communities with information as the first line of defense against consumer fraud,” the agency’s website states.

US Navy 090904-N-6326B-261 Gen. David H. Petre...
(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

“This broad coalition is sharing tips and information about managing money, dealing with credit and debt, building savings, protecting personal information, recognizing identity theft and avoiding fraud. Although all consumers can benefit from these tips, the unique challenges of military life — frequent relocation, separation from family and friends, and the stresses of deployment — can make military households an attractive target for scam artists. In fact, during 2012 the Federal Trade Commission logged more than 62,000 complaints from service members, veterans, and spouses about their experiences in the marketplace.”

“According to the Federal Trade Commission, members of the military are ripe for attacks by scam artists,” according to a story in The Baltimore Sun.

“They are targets for fraud because they relocate frequently, and many are living on their own and earning a steady paycheck for the first time,” Jessica Rich, FTC’s Bureau of Consumer Protection Director, stated in a news release quoted in the story.

Of the 62,000 complaints mentioned in the FBI statement, 24,800 involved identity theft, The Sun story indicated.

“The FTC recommends that service members check their credit reports annually for errors or signs that lines of credit have been opened under their names by thieves,” the story added. “The FTC notes that service members on active duty can reduce the chance of identity theft by placing an ‘active duty alert’ on their credit report. You only have to contact one credit bureau, which is supposed to notify the others. An active duty alert lasts one year.”

“An Active Duty Alert does not require a lender to contact you directly to get your approval before granting credit in your name, but it does enable them to take appropriate action to protect your identity,” the story quoted from Experian, one of the major credit bureaus. “Each lender must determine what constitutes appropriate action for its particular business.

“When you add an Active Duty Alert, your name is also removed from lists for preapproved offers for two years.”

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