Active and retired military personnel need to remain especially vigilant over their identities while serving our country, and during the years that follow, as they are more likely than the general population to suffer identity theft or abuse. In fact, identity theft complaints among U.S. military members and veterans are made at twice the number reported by the general public, according a 2014 FTC report.
A 2006 data breach occurred that significantly increased service members' vulnerability to identity theft, when a laptop containing the names, Social Security numbers, and birth dates of more than 26.5 million veterans, military personnel, and their families was stolen.
If you are an active service member, or a veteran, it is important to take action to protect your identity. Below we offer responses to some of the most common threats.
The VA has a special help line for veterans faced with identity theft. If you are a veteran in need of help, please call 1-855-578-5492.
Fictitious charities solicit veterans and their families for donations.
Thoroughly investigate charities before donating. You can contact the Secretary of State's office and request the registration number and financial reports for a charity before providing money.
Hang Up The Phone
Veterans and military personnel are often targeted by phone and email phishing scams. These letters and calls appear to come from the government.
Never provide personal information over the phone or through email. If you receive a strange request, hang up. Call the office in question from the phone number listed on their website. Check the validity of the claim with a representative.
Veterans are highly targeted for credit card theft.
Adopt the same habits suggested for the general public to keep personal identifying information safe. Never carry important documents on your person. Shred documents with a crosscut shredder. Check your credit report regularly, and if deployed, consider placing a credit freeze on your account.
Too Good To Be True
Military personnel are often offered "free" memberships and discounts. These scams often request personal information that may be sold to third parties.
Understand that if something sounds "too good to be true," it probably is. Nothing is free. Never share your personally identifying information with any unverified source.
Careful Who You Trust
Before deploying, many service members grant Power of Attorney to a spouse or trusted friend. This person may abuse their power for fraudulent activity.
Carefully vet the person to whom you bestow this power. Speak to a legal counselor or advisor beforehand, and continue to monitor your finances and important documents.
Funded by a partnership with the Texas Legislature, and powered by the Center for Identity, IDWise is a resource center for the public on identity theft, fraud, and privacy.