The importance of active duty alerts and credit freezes


When I was a civilian employee for the Air Force at the end of the Vietnam War, I joined Pentagon Federal Credit Union. Pen Fed is now a huge organization with some 1 million customers made up of active duty military, former military and even civilians. Unfortunately, Pen Fed has also been hit with a serious security breach lately.

The Pen Fed breach reportedly included the Social Security numbers, names, addresses, credit card numbers and debit card numbers of an indeterminate number of customers. Pen Fed is not saying how many customers have had their info breached. (As a side note, most any survey of rewards credit cards for net payers shows Pen Fed among the best issuers in the country. Of course, it’s not very rewarding if your account gets compromised!)

If you are a Pen Fed member, put a credit freeze in place so even if criminals get your info, they can’t do anything with it. See my guide for more instructions.

It is really a shame that any institution that has a serious breach holds back its cards on what actually happened so people can understand what level of concern they should have. In lieu of much concrete info, I would say you should be sure to check your statements very closely to make sure no funny stuff happens with your account. If you notice anything, you have a 60-day window to alert Pen Fed.

Meanwhile, there’s also a big problem with criminal rings stealing the identity of deployed troops who are overseas and don’t know their identity has been swiped. If you are in our armed forces, there are special procedures that you can do to notify the credit bureaus when you are on active duty status.

In theory, once you’ve notified the bureaus about active duty status, creditors would know you were out of the country and shut down any applications if someone wrongfully tries to open a new line of credit in your name. The FTC has compiled a helpful guide that details the process of putting an active duty alert on your credit records.

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