Current and former military members are at an increased risk of identity theft. In 2013, the Federal Trade Commission found that military consumers filed identity theft complaints at twice the rate of the general public.
Victims of identity crimes face numerous obstacles including fraudulent charges and damaged credit. But military members have added challenges and the impact of identity theft can potentially cost them their career.
Did you know? One of the factors affecting a security clearance is your record of financial responsibility. If a fraudster ruins your credit you could be denied or lose your security clearance.
Air National Guardsman Zane Purdy knows this all too well. He was making a six-figure salary as a defense contractor until his identity was stolen and sold to a tax fraud ring. Because his position required a top security clearance, he was let go after his security clearance was revoked due to the financial mess the identity thief caused.
How come fraudsters target military members?
Their personal information is readily available and heavily shared between different organizations. Up until 2011, Social Security numbers were used to identify personnel and were even printed on military ID cards.
Service members are also away for extended periods of time, which means they are unlikely to check their credit or bank statements.
Thieves have a variety of tactics to get their hands on personal information. The United States Army warns that phishing and hacking are two of the most common tactics used to target military personnel.
Another headline-making tactic is insider theft. Personal information is shared so frequently between different military parties that it can easily find its way into the hands of a fraudster.
How severe of a problem is insider theft?
In February 2014, an employee at the Fort Benning hospital ran a $2 million fraud scheme by stealing the personally identifiable information of military members. She used this information to file more than 1,000 fraudulent tax returns. Her victims included deployed soldiers in Afghanistan and Iraq.
In December 2014, a 22-year-old Georgia Army National Guard member was arrested for identity theft after she stole more than 100 fellow guard members’ personal information. She then tried to sell that information, including their Social Security numbers, so the receiving party could commit identity theft.
So what should military members do?
- Place an Active Duty Alert on your credit report while deployed. This notifies creditors that you are an active duty U.S. military member and that they must take appropriate action to ensure the accuracy of your personal information.
- Consider giving a trusted loved one a power of attorney while deployed. A power of attorney gives that person the authority to act on your behalf for any legal or economic issue for a specified period of time.
- If your military ID contains your Social Security number, renew it as soon as possible. It will be replaced with a ten-digit Department of Defense ID number.
- Be cautious of phishing emails that commonly target service members and veterans.
- Tax fraud is commonly committed using military personnel personal information. If you are notified that your tax refund has already been paid, don’t panic. Contact the IRS identity theft hotline and follow their instructions.
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