More service members and now military families could get free credit monitoring under a bill in the Senate. The expanded benefit could help reduce troops' higher risk of identity theft.
A bipartisan group of four senators introduced the Servicemembers' Credit Monitoring Enhancement Act on April 26 to expand an existing right.
Some troops can already get free credit monitoring. A 2018 amendment to the Free Credit Reporting Act, implemented in 2019, requires that the U.S. credit reporting agencies provide free electronic credit monitoring to active-duty troops and National Guard members who sign up.
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The new bill proposes a further amendment, this time expanding the free service to all uniformed troops, regardless of duty status, and to spouses and dependents over age 18.
Active-duty troops were 76% more likely than other adults to report a case of identity theft in a 2020 analysis by the Federal Trade Commission, and one-fifth of them said they'd already been the target of multiple types of identity theft. They were twice as likely to have their identity stolen by someone they knew.
Credit monitoring can help to quickly pick up on instances of identity theft, according to the FTC, by flagging "mistakes or problems with their credit reports that might stem from the unauthorized use of their personal information to obtain credit," the commission said in a statement announcing the free service.
The credit bureaus -- Equifax, Experian and TransUnion -- must notify service members within 48 hours of any "material additions or modifications" to their credit file and provide access to the complete file at that time.
Material changes include new accounts in the service member's name, new debt collection accounts, some requests for credit reports, address and credit limit changes, and "negative information" such as delinquent accounts, bankruptcy filings, court judgments, liens and foreclosures.
An inaccurate credit report can hurt an individual's credit score, leading to higher interest rates or outright rejection for future loans, according to Experian.
Experian already offers free credit monitoring to anyone. Equifax charges $4.95 for the first 30 days, then $19.95 a month for its credit monitoring service. And TransUnion charges $29.95 a month.
Sens. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn.; Kevin Cramer, R-N.D.; Tom Carper, D-Del.; and Steve Daines, R-Mont., introduced the bill.
Klobuchar said in a news release that the free credit monitoring would provide "peace of mind" to military families, and Cramer said it will "help keep their information secure."
-- Amanda Miller can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Related: 3 Reasons Veterans Are More Likely to Be Victims of Identity Theft