Friday, August 17, 2007

Support for the Illinois Troops

by Heather Wells (Recovery Advocate)

This month, Governor Rod Blagojevich of Illinois signed a bill that will increase penalties for identity theft committed against members of the military who reside in Illinois and are serving abroad. House Bill 1236 is sponsored by State Representative Jil Tracy and State Senator John O. Jones.

This bill increases the penalties for identity theft by one class if the Illinois victim is an active duty member of the armed services, reserve forces of the US or of the Illinois National Guard serving in a foreign country. Each identity theft offense increases the penalty by one class. This new bill goes into affect on January 1st 2008.

Military personnel serving overseas are often victims or potential victims of identity theft. Thieves target service members when they have been deployed because it is harder for them to monitor their finances. Recently, a marine from Iowa had his good credit ruined by an identity thief while he was stationed in Iraq. According to this news story, the marine returned to the States and was turned down for a VA home loan.

Stories like this are extremely disheartening, but there is something that can be done for military personnel to decrease their chances of becoming victims of identity theft. It is advisable that all deployed military personnel place an “active duty” alert on their credit files to decrease the chances of their social security number being used fraudulently. This special alert is good for one year, as opposed to the 90-day initial alert available to all consumers. Both of these types of alerts are free and easy to place.

To place an “active duty” alert, or to have it removed, call one of the three credit bureaus (Equifax, TransUnion, Experian) and follow the appropriate voice prompts. Individuals will need to provide personal information including social security number, date of birth, address, and a phone number for notification purposes. The phone number provided to the bureaus will be the one a business may use for verification purposes if someone tries to apply for an account. A personal representative of the individual in the military may place or remove the alert.

Equifax: 1-800-525-6285;
Experian: 1-888-EXPERIAN (397-3742);
TransUnion: 1-800-680-7289;

Contact only one of the three credit bureaus to place an alert – that bureau is required to contact the other two bureaus, who will also place fraud alerts on their files. If the contact information changes before the alert expires, remember to update it.

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