Identity theft in the military a growing concern

It’s a fact: military personnel have a higher risk for identity theft than most civilians. This danger is greater because military personnel often spend long amounts of time overseas, their Social Security numbers are used publicly at times and they tend to relocate frequently. While there are growing regulations in place to help with lending offers, housing challenges and other financial concerns specific to military personnel one area that is often overlooked is their ability to track their credit and keep their credit reports and identities safe.

Fortunately, the military has recently started working to combat identity theft crimes. Until recently, all military ID cards, veteran ID cards and earning statements included full printed Social Security numbers. Now, the first five digits of Social Security numbers are masked most military documents and there have also been new protections for the privacy of online information on government websites. Although these new security measures have helped to reduce identity theft, military personnel still remain particularly vulnerable to these crimes.

There are also two new resources available just to help military personnel combat identity theft:

• Active Duty Alerts – Military personnel deployed for active duty now have the added security of being able to place a special fraud alert on their credit reports. Simply contact one of the three credit bureaus (Equifax, Experian or TransUnion) to request that an active duty alert be placed on all three credit reports for one year. This alert notifies creditors that you are on active duty and that they should contact you before opening new accounts.

• Military Sentinel – Military personnel can file an identity theft complaint online at www.consumer.gov/military/. This website exists as a partnership between the Federal Trade Commission and the Department of Defense. Reporting the crime here won’t help resolve the case but it does help with tracking and policy decisions.

Identity theft in the military is an unfortunately common crime. Luckily, lawmakers and military agencies have started to acknowledge the problem and take actions to protect personnel. Identity theft rates are dropping, but military personnel should still take the initiative and be extra cautious about protecting their identities.