Being deployed during active duty can be stressful on servicemen and women, regardless of the location of the assignment. While being assigned stateside does still allow for a more familiar experience in dealing with your finances, a foreign theater deployment can feel downright overwhelming during an already sensitive and nerve-racking transition.
But a deployment isn’t as simple as cutting off access to your accounts or placing a freeze on them, especially if you have family members back home who rely on your income and accounts. You need to take steps to safeguard your finances while still ensuring that only those who are supposed to have access are able to do so.
One way to avoid a lot of the hassle and concern with sudden transitions is to do most of your banking and financial transactions online. Of course, this presents its own security risks, especially if you’ll be relying on shared computers once you reach your deployment destination. Make sure your passwords are secure and not easily discovered, and be watchful of other people who might be lingering while you check in with your accounts. Never store your passwords in computers that will be accessed by other users, and make certain that you actually log out each time you check your bank accounts, not just close the browser window.
Many members of the military give Power of Attorney to someone else before they deploy. It’s a good idea to have the paperwork for this already secured so that in the event of an immediate deployment, no one is scrambling to get this in place. Please remember that there have been an unfortunate number of soldiers who’ve returned home to find that their finances were completely mishandled in their absences; credit cards were established, bank accounts emptied, even new contract-based utilities like cell phones or expensive cable TV packages were signed. Make sure that the person with Power of Attorney knows and will respect your accounts, and is trustworthy.
The Judge Advocate General’s office for your branch of the military should have a complete document that outlines the things you need to keep in mind before granting a POA, as well as covers some of the minor details that you might have forgotten to prepare for. Request a copy and read that document carefully before awarding anyone access to your accounts; remember that it will also provide you with information on how to revoke POA if the need arises or when you no longer need it.
One step that will help protect your credit and your accounts is to request an Active Duty Fraud Alert from the credit reporting agencies. This is alert will remain in effect for one year, and it requires proof that your identity has been verified before a line of credit can be opened. You’re also able to appoint someone to act in your place if you’re deployed out of the country. To enact this type of alert, you’ll need to submit a copy of your driver’s license and your military ID, your Social Security card, a copy of your orders for deployment, and a copy of a recent bill as proof of your address. Experian, Equifax, and TransUnion—the three credit reporting agencies—also have online and phone help for placing this type of alert.
While the last thing you should have to worry about during a deployment is your credit report or bank accounts, it’s a good idea to keep tabs on these accounts while you’re away. It’s a case of an “ounce of prevention”…you’d much rather know about any suspicious activity while it’s happening than be faced with a financial surprise upon your return.