from – AZCentral.com – by Mark Pribish
Our brave military personnel may believe they are under attack by enemies never imagined, and that fear can continue even after their service to country ends. ID-theft complaints among active U.S. military and veterans are made at twice the number reported by the general U.S. population, a 2014 Federal Trade Commission report said.
In fact, 30 percent of active military and veterans place ID theft as their No. 1 complaint, compared with 14 percent of the general U.S. population.
These alarming ID-theft complaint rates may be connected to the 2006 Veterans Affairs department’s admission that it lost a laptop containing 26.5 million names, Social Security numbers and birth dates. Or maybe the high rate of ID-theft complaints has resulted from a whopping 20 data breaches reported by the VA since 2006, potentially affecting 21 million veterans and their families.
Whether active military, veteran or a family member, your personally identifiable information, including financial, medical and personal information, continues to be at risk. The VA, with an annual budget north of $160 billion, has been unable to fully secure its information.
In fairness, no business or government agency — not even law enforcement — can keep information 100 percent secure. Americans do expect better from Uncle Sam when it comes to those who have risked life and limb to protect us. Do all you can to protect by checking on your credit and related information frequently.
The non-profit Privacy Rights Clearinghouse reports that since 2005, nearly 700 government and military data breaches have occurred, with 45 million veterans and active-duty military personnel ID records compromised.
Health-care benefits, dog tags and use of Social Security numbers contribute to the ID problems for active military and veterans. ID-card upgrades are in progress, including bar codes, magnetic stripes and other electronic authentication. Better technology and security protocols can’t fully stop ID-theft risks, but may help active duty and veterans sleep better.
The current threat looms via corruption and errors by current and former employees, vendors and external threats by the omnipresent ID criminals. The impact on our active servicemen, -women and veterans can be significant. Identity theft can put them in debt, ruin credit and make it virtually impossible to obtain personal loans or mortgages, according to the 2014 FTC report. The problems can be bigger for deployed service men and women.
I encourage those deployed to put an “active-duty alert” on their credit reports. Alerting one credit bureau will, in effect, alert all of them. The alert requires creditors to take steps to verify identity before granting credit. The alert must be renewed after a year. Also get guidance from the FTC on what to know and what to do in preventing and responding to identity theft. (http://www.consumer.ftc.gov/articles/pdf-0016-militaryidentity-theft.pdf)
Active-duty personnel, veterans and their families need to recognize the potential attack by ID criminals and have a defense plan ready before they strike.