Military and Veterans Issues How do I contact someone who is deployed? For information on how to contact service members who are currently deployed, please contact the deployed individual’s unit command. In addition, each branch may designate the following individuals to serve as a source of information for family members: Navy and Coast Guard: a volunteer Ombudsmen serves as a liaison between the unit and family members Air Force: the Air Force Squadron will designate a Key Volunteer Army: each Army unit will designate a Family Readiness Support Assistant (FRSA) Marine Corps: Family Readiness Officers serve family members of deployed Marines You can find contact information for these representatives by calling the deployed individual’s duty station. Whom do I contact about active duty issues? Active duty issues are not within the scope of responsibilities of state government. We encourage you to contact your U.S. Congressional representatives to voice your concerns and receive further assistance. You can find contact information for U.S. Representatives and Senators by visiting https://www.govtrack.us/congress/members and entering your home address. How do I receive Veterans Affairs Benefits? The Department of Military and Veterans Affairs has a devoted team of professionals committed to ensuring that all who served, and their loved ones, are made aware of and maximize all the benefits and resources available. For more information, please visit the Benefits & Claims section of the NC DMVA website, or call (984) 204-8366. How can I protect my identity while serving? When you’re serving in the military, it can be hard to monitor your credit and financial information on a regular basis. That may make you an easier target for ID theft. Before you begin a period of service, consider placing an active duty alert on your credit reports and get a security freeze on your credit. ACTIVE DUTY ALERTS When you're called to active duty or deployed away from your normal duty station, you can place an active duty alert on your credit report to reduce the risk that you’ll become a victim of identity theft. When a business sees an active duty alert on your credit report, it must verify your identity before issuing credit. The law allows you to designate a personal representative (a spouse, parent, or another trusted person) who can act on your behalf to verify your identity or remove your active duty alert if needed. Your active duty alert will remain in place for one year, although you can request to have it removed sooner. When the year is up, you can place another active duty alert on your credit report if your deployment is continuing. Placing an active duty alert also reduces the number of unsolicited pre-approved credit card and insurance offers you receive for two years. To place an active duty alert, contact at least one of the three credit bureaus. Update your contact information if it changes before your alert expires. How to Request an Active Duty Alert from the 3 Credit Bureaus Credit Bureau Contact Information Equifax https://www.equifax.com/personal/credit-report-services/ 1-800-525-6285 Experian https://www.experian.com/fraud/center.html 1-888-397-3742 Trans Union https://www.transunion.com/fraud-alerts 1-800-680-7289 SECURITY FREEZE What Is a Security Freeze? A “security freeze” blocks access to your credit unless you have given your permission. This can prevent an identity thief from opening a new account or getting credit in your name. All consumers can get a free security freeze online, by phone or by mail. A security freeze, also known as a credit or a file freeze, can be lifted (or “thawed”) temporarily when you are applying for credit, or removed permanently. Parents and guardians can also shield their children’s credit report with a special Protected Consumer security freeze. These freezes can also be used to safeguard incapacitated adults. How a Security Freeze Works Once you’ve placed a security freeze on your credit, a creditor who asks to see your file will see a message that your file is frozen. The creditor will not see your credit score, and may treat your application as incomplete but not rejected. Government agencies collecting child support payments or taxes and your existing creditors or collection agencies acting on their behalf can continue to access your credit despite the freeze. Other creditors may also use your information to offer you pre-approved credit. You can stop most credit offers by calling (888) 5-OPT-OUT or visiting www.optoutprescreen.com. You will still be able to get a free copy of your credit report annually from each credit bureau. Freeze Your Credit for Free Placing a security freeze on your credit reports can block an identity thief from opening a new account or getting credit in your name. North Carolina residents can set up and manage security freezes free of charge. Credit bureaus must comply with online or telephonic requests for a security freeze within one business day of receiving them. The credit bureaus must comply with requests made by mail within 3 business days of receiving them. How to Get Your Free Security Freeze Online: To establish your security freezes, you will need to contact each of the three credit bureaus online: Equifax – Online Form Experian – Online Form TransUnion – Online Form Mail: Credit bureaus must comply with your written request for a security freeze within three business days after they receive it. To request a security freeze by mail, send a letter to each of the three credit bureaus listed below. Your letter should include: Your full name including middle initial and any suffix (such as Jr.) Your home addresses for the last five years Your Social Security number and date of birth Two proofs of residence (examples: a copy of your driver’s license, utility bill, insurance statement, bank statement) Police or DMV report if you’re a victim of identity theft (Note: The credit bureaus already have your name and other personal information in their files. You will be providing it to verify your identity. Phone: Credit bureaus must comply with your request by phone for a security freeze within one business day. To place a freeze by phone, call each of the three credit bureaus. Be prepared to supply the information listed above including your driver’s license number and Social Security Number. Contact the Credit Bureaus to Request a Security Freeze Equifax Experian TransUnion PO Box 105788 Atlanta, GA 30348 1-800-349-9960 PO Box 9554 Allen, TX 75013 1-888-397-3742 PO Box 2000 Chester, PA 19016 1-888-909-8872 Keep Your PINs or Passwords Safe When you freeze your credit, the company will send you confirmation of the placement of the freeze along with information on how to remove the freeze, including any authentication information you will need, such as a PIN (Personal Identification Number) or password. The information should be sent to you no later than five business days after placing the freeze. Make sure to keep this authentication information in a safe place. Protected Consumer Security Freezes You can alsoe freeze the credit reports of children and incapacitated adults. Lifting or Removing Your Freeze You can request that a freeze be lifted for a specified period of time or removed by making the request to the credit bureaus and providing proper identification. The credit bureaus must lift or remove a freeze one hour after receiving the request when the consumer makes the request by telephone or online. If the request is made by mail, the credit bureaus must lift or remove the freeze within 3 days after receiving such a request. Learn more about Lifting your Security Freeze. What about renting or leasing a property? A servicemember’s deployment or change in duty station can change housing needs. There are many important considerations and protections to review when transitioning your residence to your new location. OBTAINING NEW HOUSING When seeking housing at your new location, know your rights under both North Carolina law and the SCRA, watch for potential rental scams, and take advantage of your military resources. Learn more about Financial and Housing Rights under the SCRA. ENDING YOUR LEASE As a servicemember who has received orders for a permanent change in station (PCS) or a deployment for a period of at least 90 days, you are permitted to terminate your residential rental agreement prior to its expiration date. TERMINATING VACATION RENTAL LEASES Under North Carolina law, a servicemember may be able to terminate a vacation rental agreement if the servicemember is required to relocate, due to a PCS, prior to the beginning of the lease, or is ordered to deploy for a period overlapping with the lease’s rental period. See page 9 for more information. EVICTION PROTECTION The SCRA also provides protection in case of eviction proceedings. If your monthly housing rent is $3,851.03 or less (an amount adjusted annually), the SCRA may stop your family from being evicted without a court order while you are serving active duty. SCRA Lease Termination The SCRA’s early termination of leases covers leases for premises occupied, or intended to be occupied by, a servicemember or a servicemember’s dependents for residential, professional, business, agricultural, or similar purposes. The leases may be terminated early due to entry into military service, a permanent change in station (PCS), or deployment with a military unit for at least 90 days. 50 USCS §3955(b)(1) (2018). All early terminations require notice and official documentation which can be: A copy of official orders, or Any notification, certification, or verification from a commanding officer referencing the servicemember’s current or future military status. The notice is to be provided to the lessor (landlord) or the lessor’s agent, such as a property manager or rental office representative, and can be delivered by hand, private carrier, or postage prepaid US Mail. The effective date of the early termination is controlled by when the notice, with the required documentation, is provided to the landlord. For leases with monthly rent, after notice, the lease terminates 30 days after the date the next rental payment is due. For leases without monthly rent, the lease terminates the last day of the month after the notice is received. The servicemember is responsible for the prorated amount of the rent up to the termination dates; the SCRA prohibits any early termination charge. Any prepayments of unearned rent are to be refunded to the lessee within 30 days of the effective date. Under the SCRA, providing notice prior to your rent’s due date greatly reduces the period to termination. If your rent is due on the 1st and you provide notice on the 2nd, your termination will not be effective until 30 days after your next due date – nearly 2 months. If you had given notice the day before your rent’s due date, the effective date would be in about 1 month – 30 days after the due date. The SCRA also provides protection in the case of eviction proceedings. If your monthly rent is $3,851.03 or less (an amount adjusted annually), the SCRA may stop your family from being evicted without a court order while you are serving active duty. EARLY TERMINATION OF VACATION RENTAL AGREEMENTS Under North Carolina law, a servicemember may be able to terminate a vacation rental agreement if, after signing the lease agreement, the servicemember receives orders to relocate, due to a PCS, or is ordered to deploy during the lease’s rental period. (N.C. Gen Stat § 42A-37 (2017)) To qualify for the termination, the servicemember must receive the orders after signing the lease agreement. Additionally, PCS orders must require the servicemember to relocate prior to the first day of the rental agreement. In the case of deployment, the period of deployment must overlap with the rental. Finally, the servicemember must provide notice, including a copy of the official orders or a written verification from the member’s commanding officer, within 10 days of receiving the orders or verification. The termination is effective when received by the landlord or the landlord’s agent. Upon termination, any advance payments, except non-refundable fees paid to a third party, must be refunded within 30 days. The termination also eliminates any obligations the servicemember’s spouse or dependent children may have had under the vacation rental agreement. Further, if the lease agreement is only in the name of the affected servicemember’s spouse, the spouse may exercise the right to terminate the agreement. When signing vacation rental agreements, be aware that this right to early termination is yours and may not be waived or modified. North Carolina law also permits early termination of rental agreements by military technicians. (N.C. Gen Stat § 42-45) RENTAL SCAMS Finding affordable housing is a challenge in many parts of North Carolina, and rental scammers are well aware of this fact. They exploit the situation by “hijacking” existing online ads (substituting their contact information for the real owner or agent), or by cutting and pasting photos from actual rental property listings to create a new online listing, or by making up online listings for rental units that don’t exist. These scammers, who tend to use free sites like Craigslist to post their fake ads, generally offer to rent at a bargain price to get your attention. If you have conditions (needing it on short notice, only needing it short term, or not knowing how long you will need it), those conditions will turn out to be no problem for the owner or agent. Depending on the length of the rental you need, be wary of owners or agents who ask you to pay multiple months of rent up front or as a deposit, especially if they ask you to make the payment via an uncommon method like wire transfer. If you are seeking housing with a modest rent, you might be delighted by your good fortune to find this unit. The possibility that the ad could be a scam might not cross your mind. But when renting, keep your guard up. Be aware that consumers can be victimized in their search for affordable housing, and seek out additional information to help you spot and avoid rental scammers. Assistance in obtaining housing is available to servicemembers, Department of Defense civilians and their families through www.homes.mil, an official Department of Defense website.