A coalition of U.S. Senators have issued a letter to Chris A. Cartwright, President and CEO of TransUnion, outlining their concerns that servicemembers and their families are not receiving the credit report protections required by law from the big three credit reporting agencies.
Sen. Sharrod Brown, Chairman of the Senate Committee on Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs, along with Sen. Jack Reed, a senior member of the Banking Committee and Chairman of the Armed Services Committee; Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto; Sen. Chris Van Hollen; and Sen. John Fetterman sent letters urging TransUnion, Experian, and Equifax to ensure servicemembers receive free credit monitoring services, active-duty alerts, and free access to credit reports, to protect these crucial reports from financial scams, identity theft, and other errors.
The law guarantees servicemembers protections like free credit monitoring services and the ability to place an active-duty alert on their credit reports. However, credit bureaus often fail to provide servicemembers with these protective services, and errors are common. According to the CFPB, credit reports are the most common issue servicemembers register complaints about with the agency. In 2022, servicemembers sent in nearly 36,000 complaints to the CFPB related to credit reports.
“These protections allow servicemembers to perform their duties with peace of mind that their credit histories are being actively monitored for changes and threats,” said Sen. Brown and colleagues said in the letter. “Reducing or alleviating these stressors for servicemembers and their families directly supports the operational readiness of our armed forces.”
Credit reports have a substantial impact on many servicemembers’ work. Some servicemembers, and all officers, must pass a national security clearance check that includes a detailed review of their credit history. An error on a credit report may result in denial or loss of a security clearance, which could cost someone in the military their job. 80 percent of security clearance revocations are related to financial difficulties. Deployed servicemembers may be out of the country and not able to actively monitor their credit report. Servicemembers are also often targets of identity theft, because they must change addresses frequently.
The letter cites Federal Trade Commission (FTC) data from 2021 which found that military consumers reported nearly 50,000 cases of identity theft to the FTC. Military consumers reported their information was misused to fraudulently access government benefits, credit cards, bank accounts, loans, and leases; and even to set up telephone and utility services.
“Frequent military moves and deployments make military families easy targets for fraud, scams and identify theft,” said Kelly Hruska, Government Relations Director at the National Military Family Association. “Once you're a target, your credit score can be ruined—making it difficult to rent a house, secure a loan, or even get certain jobs. We stand with Senator Brown in his efforts to make sure military families get the credit monitoring protections they are entitled to by law.”
The letter presented nine major questions to TransUnion, Experian, and Equifax regarding the protections of servicemebers’ credit reporting, including:
- What is your firm doing to ensure that servicemembers are aware that they have a right to initiate an active-duty alert and are eligible to receive free credit monitoring?
- What statements are available on your public websites notifying servicemembers that they are entitled to free credit monitoring products and an active-duty alert?
- How many active duty servicemembers have requested and received free credit reports from your firm over the last five years? How many have requested and received an active-duty alert?
- What features are available to servicemembers through paid credit monitoring products that are not available to servicemembers through the free credit monitoring products available to them?
- What training do public-facing representatives—i.e., call center representatives—undergo that informs them that servicemembers are entitled to initiate an active-duty alert and to free credit monitoring products?
- If a customer identifies themselves as a servicemember, are public-facing representatives trained to inform the customer that they are entitled to invoke an active-duty alert and to free credit monitoring services?
- Are any internal monitoring systems employed to ensure that public-facing representatives are informing servicemembers that they are entitled to start an active-duty alert and to free credit monitoring products?
- Do public-facing representatives utilize sales scripts to sell servicemembers paid credit monitoring products?
- What is the pricing structure for all paid credit monitoring products offered over the last five years?
Click here to read the full letter from Sen. Brown and his coalition of Senators to TransUnion, Experian, and Equifax.