Starting in December, Thrift Savings Plan online access will require two-factor identification. Be sure your account details are up to date, or you might found yourself locked out of your account.
You know the TSP board – always making things safer. And sometimes more difficult. I appreciate their commitment to cyber-security, but sometimes I don’t think they think things through before they make changes. Remember those old TSP password requirements, where you needed 64 characters, three capitals, your blood type, one anagram and two special characters that were only available on Cyrillic keyboards? (No? Okay, I might be exaggerating. Just a little bit.)
In this year’s poorly advertised change, online access to TSP accounts will require two-factor identification starting “in December.” I can’t find a specific date listed anywhere, so I’m going to plan for that to start on 1 December – that’s Sunday. Update: My contact at TSP *thinks* that it is later in the month. Maybe the 21st. Maybe not. While two-factor identification isn’t a bad idea, I see a lot of implementation problems possible here.
What Is Two-Factor Identification?
Two-factor identification is a method of confirming users’ identities by using a combination of factors. A common example of two-factor identification is using a bank card at an ATM, requiring a card and a PIN. You can also have multi-factor identification. A common example of multi-factor identification is using a safe deposit box, which requires a key, identification, and a signature.
Two-factor identification can decrease fraud. Or it can be a huge pain. Or both.
What You Need To Do
First, you need to log into your TSP online account. You’ll probably get a pop-up that tells you to update your information. It might look like one of these first two pictures, or you might see both:
You may also get a pop-up that gives you the option to enroll in two-step identification. As best as I can tell, this is a leftover from the current policy, where two-step authentication is optional.
Then, you need to verify that your email and text-capable telephone numbers are correct, and “validate” them.
You can find your current email and telephone numbers listed on the Profile page.
Pro tip: Make sure you have a personal email address in your settings. It’s a good practice, since military emails can change and you won’t have access to a military email after you leave the military. Plus, you might not always have access to your military email when you want to check your TSP account.
If you click on the validate link, it will take you to a page asking you whether you would like to validate. If you’re validating a phone number, there are some extra instructions about it being a text-enabled phone number.
Validating sends a code to your email or phone, and you have to enter the code into the TSP website. Once the code is sent, you have 1 hour to enter it at the TSP website, or you have to start over.
Is This Good Or Bad?
Both. Increasing security is always good, and no one wants to be the victim of fraud or identity theft. But I do wish that they had announced it earlier, and done a better job of advertising the change. I forsee a LOT of people getting locked out of their accounts, which is just sooooo frustrating. I already hear about service members getting locked out of their TSP accounts too often, and I can see how this is going to make the problem a lot worse.
But regardless of how I feel about it, or how you feel about it, this change is happening. Make it easier on yourself by going into your TSP account, TODAY, and validating your contact information. Don’t procrastinate, because it is Thanksgiving weekend and you know that time is going to get away from you, and then suddenly it will be Monday and the 2nd of December. And maybe you will be locked out, or maybe you won’t. I don’t really want to find out the complicated way.
UPDATE: If my friend at TSP is right, and this isn’t being implemented for a couple of weeks, we may not have the urgency that I originally thought. BUT, go ahead and do it anyway. You know how time goes…you put something off until “tomorrow” and then it doesn’t get done three weeks later. And let’s be fair – the time between Thanksgiving and New Year’s isn’t exactly known for being boring. So just go do it now.
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