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Laws can protect returning military personnel
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Be aware that these protections will minimize -- but not eliminate -- the threat of identity theft. To be extra sure that there aren't any problems, authorize your spouse, parent or other financial representative to pull a copy of your credit report periodically while you're gone and scan it for any suspicious activity.

Other. Reservists and active-duty military members enjoy other protections related to civilian jobs and tax filings. For information on these issues, see these Bankrate stories:

Jobs: "Johnny comes marching home to new financial battles;" "Law protects reservists' jobs"
Taxes: "Tax guidelines, new breaks for military taxpayers"

For more information, the military operates a legal information portal, which covers topics such as consumer and contract issues, family law, immigration, landlords and tenants, how to get free legal assistance as a member of the military, and many other topics. More information on the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act can be found on military.com. Reservists can find information specific to their concerns at operationhomefront.org.

Take action
It's important to remember that a particular provision of the law won't protect you unless you invoke it. You must proactively notify lenders, landlords, leaseholders and others in writing with information including your account number, your personal information, the nature of your military service, and the length of your deployment in order to take advantage of the law.

Make sure to keep copies of all letters and statements you receive as proof that you notified these creditors. Send letters "return receipt requested," so you can be sure they are received.

Getting ready for deployment is a busy time. But if you can take care of potential problems before they surface, you'll make things a lot easier for you and your family, both while you're gone and when you come back. Plan to sit down with your spouse, parent or friend who will be handling your finances while you are gone.

"There are quite a few family members who have never had to handle the household budgeting and pay the bills who have to deal with these responsibilities when they are totally unprepared," says Laura Taylor, director of education and community relations for the Greater Washington Center for Financial Education. So if you haven't had a budget before, work on one together before you leave.

Deployed reservists and active-duty military receive bonuses in the form of combat pay, extra allowances and other benefits, but those extra funds may not kick into paychecks right away and may not be immediately reversed upon the end of deployment, creating potential headaches. Shannon Nash, CPA, a former military spouse and author of "For the Love of Money," suggests military families save any extra pay rather than spending it.

"Take this extra windfall and use it to fund an IRA, start or increase your contribution to the military retirement system, save to buy a house, or fund your kids' college education," she says. "Do anything but spend it, because once you're used to spending at a higher level, it will be very difficult to return to the regular pay left post-deployment."

Bankrate.com's corrections policy -- Posted: June 2, 2006
More stories by Amy Buttell Crane
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