All three credit reporting agencies are now offering free credit monitoring to service members, beginning today.

The benefit is the result of a 2018 law designed to help troops keep on top of their finances. Credit monitoring often costs $30 a month or more. With early detection of changes, troops can take steps to nip fraud and other problems in the bud.

To sign up for the service, visit the websites of the three credit reporting agencies: Experian, Equifax and TransUnion , according to the Federal Trade Commission, who announced the service has begun.

Originally, the Federal Trade Commission’s implementation guidelines limited the free service to “those assigned to service away from the usual duty station of the consumer,” citing their interpretation of the law.

However, all three credit reporting agencies agreed to provide the service to all service members on active duty, after Delaware senators Thomas Carper and Christopher Coons, both Democrats, asked them to do so to provide broader financial protection for troops.

These credit monitor services alert consumers about material additions or changes to their credit files, such as new accounts opened in your name; changes to address, name or phone number; changes to credit limits and inquiries or requests for a consumer report, other than pre-screening or account review.

The Federal Trade Commission rule requires that the credit reporting agencies notify military consumers within 48 hours of any of these changes or additions.

Karen has covered military families, quality of life and consumer issues for Military Times for more than 30 years, and is co-author of a chapter on media coverage of military families in the book "A Battle Plan for Supporting Military Families." She previously worked for newspapers in Guam, Norfolk, Jacksonville, Fla., and Athens, Ga.

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