Veterans of the United States military are often aggressively targeted by cybercriminals for their government benefits. Currently deployed military members are also frequent targets of attack, because their active status makes them less able to monitor their credit reports and accounts. As a result, the Department of Veterans Affairs is stepping in: as of August 2014, the VA has a new campaign, called More Than A Number—in reference to the personally identifiable information that veterans are encouraged to protect—designed to inform veterans about identity theft prevention.
To support the campaign, the VA's Office of Information and Technology launched a new website, www.va.gov/identitytheft, offering identity theft resources for veterans and their beneficiaries. Veterans can find educational tools, multimedia, and other identity theft prevention resources on the site. From the website, users can also navigate to more information based on questions like, “Am I a Victim?" and “What is the VA Doing to Help?"
The VA also announced a new toll-free identity theft helpline, which is available Monday through Friday, 8:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. EST. The number is 1-855-578-5492.
On the website, the VA outlines the measures it has adopted to help protect veterans' personally identifying information (PII), including:
The VA made headlines for a 2006 data breach which resulted in the compromise of the sensitive, unencrypted data of 25.6 million veterans and active military personnel. If a future breach should occur involving VA information, the department will offer free credit monitoring to those at risk.
The VA also assures veterans that extensive information security awareness training is required by all VA employees. Those assisting the VA's office must attend information sessions and events that help highlight best practices to protect information.
Reducing the use of Social Security Numbers (SSNs)
The VA also states that it has “significantly reduced the unnecessary collection and use of Social Security numbers as the Department's primary identifier." Social Security numbers no longer appear on any VA prescription labels, bottles, or mailing labels.
There is a new records management program being used by the VA to help prevent the disclosure of PII. According to the website, “the program manages the lifecycle of VA records, from creation, filing, and storing to disposal, in accordance with all federal regulations to ensure that records containing sensitive data are handled properly and securely."
VA Identity Safety Service
Created in 2006, the Identity Safety Service serves those affected by identity theft. Multiple programs have been created to help build partnerships with government and non-profit groups to help better prevent identity theft.
For more details about the campaign and resources, please visit: www.va.gov/identitytheft.
By Cassie Morien
The Center for Identity's ongoing research is always providing new insights on the best ways to protect military personnel from identity fraud and abuse. For more information about protecting yourself from identity theft, subscribe to our IDWise e-newsletter.