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NEWS | Aug. 26, 2014

JBLE members encouraged to help prevent credit card fraud

By Airman 1st Class Areca T. Wilson 633rd Air Base Wing Public Affairs

"Today is your lucky day! You have been chosen by the (name sweepstakes) to receive a free trip to the Bahamas. All we need is your credit card number and expiration date to verify you as the lucky winner."

According to the Federal Reserve, though credit card fraud only impacts a fraction of one percent of all purchases made with plastic, it represents one of the biggest concerns among consumers. U.S. Service members are not immune to this misfortune. Credit card fraud occurs when someone uses another person's credit card to make purchases without their knowledge or consent.

U.S. Air Force Capt. Katherine Edwards, 633rd Air Base Wing Legal Office assistant staff judge advocate, knows credit card fraud can be potentially devastating for those who are affected. "Along with stress and worry, credit card fraud can cause cash-flow problems," she said. "It may affect the [victims's] credit score, which may adversely affect the ability to rent an apartment, get a loan and eventually security clearance."

Though it may not be possible to completely avoid this type of fraud, Edwards gave some suggestions to help Service members remain vigilant.

"Use your debit card as a credit card [because] it does not require entering a pin," said Edwards. "Check credit card bills every month for unauthorized use, or more often online or on your phone. These steps do not necessarily prevent fraud but they will help you to catch it quicker."

The following steps were provided by the Office of the Attorney General Victim Notification Program to help lower Service members' chances of falling victim to credit card fraud:

- Destroy records with personal information. Tear up or shred credit card statements, documents with personally identifiable information.

- Secure mail. Empty mailboxes quickly and lock them or obtain a post office box.

- Monitor credit report. Everyone is entitled to a free annual credit report from each of the three reporting agencies: Experian, TransUnion and Equifax. Visit, the official site sponsored by the three reporting agencies, to request a credit report and review it for discrepancies. Also monitor for unauthorized credit checks.

- Reduce the number of credit cards actively used to a bare minimum. Carry only one or two cards around and cancel all unused accounts. Although they are not used, their account numbers are recorded in your credit report, which can be used by identity thieves.

- Never give credit card numbers or other personal information over the telephone unless you have a trusted business relationship with the company and you have initiated the call. Identity thieves have been known to call their victims with a fake story.

While following the preceding steps can help lower the chances of being a victim of credit card fraud, they do not ensure immunity. If credit card fraud does become an issue, Edwards advises Service members not waste any time.

"Contact your credit card company immediately, file a police report and follow procedures for disputes by credit card companies," said Edwards. "If the dispute is unsuccessful, visit the 633rd Air Base Wing Legal Office for assistance.

For assistance, Service members, their dependents and retirees can make an appointment with any legal assistance attorney at the 633rd ABW Legal Office. Legal assistance is by appointment only Tuesday and Wednesday from 10 to 11:30 a.m. Walk-ins from active duty Service members only are accepted on Friday.

The Langley Air Force Base Law Center can be contacted at 764-3277 and the Fort Eustis Law Center can be contacted at 878-3031.