WASHINGTON D.C. — A new federal report shows an increase in military members experiencing identity theft. Officials say servicemembers reported nearly 50,000 cases of identity theft to the Federal Trade Commission in 2021 alone.

“This is having a real impact on servicemembers and their families,” said Tom Feltner, Senior Engagement and Policy Fellow at the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.

The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) is tracking an increase in these cases.

The agency said military customers had their information misused to fraudulently access government benefits, credit cards and bank accounts. Experts say this can impact the hundreds of thousands of servicemembers who move every year and look for housing off base.

“What they don’t have is the luxury of waiting to make sure that their credit report is clean,” said Jim Rice, Assistant Director of the Office of Servicemember Affairs at CFPB.

Many servicemembers are also required to pass a national security clearance check. This includes a review of their credit history. If that review shows excessive debt, experts say it can impact some military careers.

“It’s not that everyone is at risk of losing their security clearance,” said Rice. “But in that process, it is an element of both gaining a security clearance and keeping a security clearance.”

If servicemembers find something off on their credit report, experts recommend asking for help.

“Too often with that young service member they’re overly concerned that it may reflect negatively on them in their career, if they take something to the chain of command where almost certainly the opposite is true - that chain of command is there to support them,” said Rice.

Servicemembers can request an active-duty alert or security freeze. This will give them protection while they are deployed for duty. These alerts will let businesses know the servicemember is out of the country. That means the company must take extra steps to verify their identity before approving a new line of credit in their name.

You can find more information here: How can I prevent anyone from using my personal information to obtain credit while I am deployed overseas in the military? | Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (consumerfinance.gov)

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