By Frank Lewis
In advance of Veterans Day next week, U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-OH) will call on the U.S. Department of Defense to take action to ensure that servicemembers have the tools they need to protect their finances and credit reports from harm during deployment. Last week, Brown helped lead a letter from 19 Senators to the Secretary of Defense outlining their concerns over reports that deployed servicemembers face significant financial vulnerabilities, including identity theft and fraud. In many cases, military families are not aware of the protections that are available to safeguard their credit during and after deployment, such as Active Duty Alerts and security freezes.
“These Ohioans serving in the military often face significant risks to their finances and their credit reports while they’re on deployment,” Brown said. “The challenges include difficulty in managing accounts from abroad, identity theft in some cases, and most importantly, being targeted by predatory lenders. Even minor credit events of single missed payments for example, can have the potential to balloon into major problems that threaten financial well-being.”
Brown said America’s men and women in uniform and their families make enough sacrifices already.
“Their credit rating should not be one of those sacrifices,” Brown said. “Since 2012 the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau has received hundreds of complaints from service members about credit reporting, including problems dealing with identity theft or fraud while these men and women are overseas.”
Brown said there are tools to protect service personnel including Active Duty Alerts and Security Freezes.
“Less than one percent of service members who called CFPB reported placing an Active Duty Alert on their credit reports before leaving for deployment,” Brown said. “We need to do more to help our troops take advantage of these tools to address the unique financial challenges that they encounter when they return home.”
Brown, ranking member of the U.S. Senate Committee on Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs, outlined legislation he is cosponsoring to provide servicemembers the opportunity to notify credit reporting agencies of a military deployment. In addition, the bill allows servicemembers to explain on their credit reports that late or missed payments were due to their deployments.
“Now we need to take the next step and insure that service members have every opportunity to protect their good credit that they have earned from fraud and account misuse,” Tom Feltner, director of financial services at the Consumer Federation of America, said.
Reach Frank Lewis at 740-353-3101, ext. 1928, or on Twitter @franklewis.