Military families at risk for identity theft

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I am proud to support our men and women who have enlisted in the military.  I feel that they protect my rights, my freedom and my way of life, so I do whatever I can to show them that I appreciate their many sacrifices.  That's why it really disgusts me when I read about scams that target our military personnel and their families.

In my opinion, it takes a particularly depraved thief to steal from military families.  It doesn't help that our military families are vulnerable to ID theft in ways that ordinary households might not be.

In a recent study, West Point professor Lt. Col. Gregory Conti found that military personnel--especially those serving overseas and therefore less able to keep an eye on their accounts--were at increased risk of identity theft.  The New York Times reported that the military routinely uses Social Security Numbers--those eight precious digits that all non-military personnel are expected to keep safe and secret--as the code for such activities as buying food at the PX or as collateral at the gym.  Ridiculous!  Lt. Col. Conti called on the military to change its ways--ASAP.

If you or someone you know is in the military, please take these basic identity theft prevention tips to heart.

DON'T share your Social Security Number unless it is absolutely necessary to do so.  I would never recommend that a soldier risk a charge of insubordination, but as the military catches up with the identity theft reality of the current century, a soldier's SSN will be less in common use.  It may be okay to at least ask what your SSN is going to be used for on a case by case basis.

DON'T give out personal information over the phone or over the Internet.  Thieves may be looking for details to corroborate information they already have or to fill in gaps in their knowledge.  When someone asks you to provide your mother's maiden name or the city in which you were born, how do you know they are matching that to information you've provided or whether they are entering it into a database of their own, to be used against you and your bank account?  You don't.

DON'T use obvious passwords.  Any password that contains a variation on your birth year is especially vulnerable to hacking.  Also, if you have the same password for multiple applications, you are leaving yourself open to attack.  Keep different passwords for different uses, and change even the least important ones regularly.

The military is taking steps to reduce its reliance on the SSN.  Every instance where it is required is being reviewed; the expectation is that this review will eliminate about half of the current uses of Social Security numbers in everyday military affairs, and help stem the incidence of identity theft among our servicemen and women.

In fact, starting this spring, the military will no longer use a soldier's SSN on his or her identification card.  It's nice to know that the men and women who protect us are themselves going to be better protected--against identity theft.

It's always best to stay informed and mindful of the latest scams and techniques used today to con you out of your hard-earned credit, money and identity. Click here for more tips and  info for military families
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my family stole my id. took me quite a while to fix my credit. It would be helpful if the laws required the credit reporting companies to work with us. My biggest problem was getting them to correct my information. I read your book Denise, you are an inspiration to anyone who has ever faced as you put it these giant "faceless" companies.

Identity theft has become a major, major problem! And living without protection is like living in a crime infested neighborhood and not having protection on your home. You would probably at least have a really good guard dog and a fence right? Well, not protecting your identity today is the equivalent of living in that neighborhood and refusing to even lock your door. It’s so sad that it’s come to this, but there are always tradeoffs in life. Because we want better medical coverage and a nicer car we pay more to protect and insure them.
Likewise, with something as amazing as the World Wide Web there come tradeoffs also. One tradeoff for us having access to almost everything is that others have access to almost everything about us, our information. And that includes our personal information like social security numbers, banking information and even your medical and criminal history.
Luckily there is a lot of information out to help us understand and protect ourselves from these heartless criminals.

I still can't believe even our military families could be at high risk of identity theft. Our government should create a bill for the identity theft victims.

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A memoir exposing the steep price consumers pay when facing mortgage servicing errors, inaccurate credit reporting, illegal debt collection practices, identity theft and weak consumer protection laws. THE BOOK » DENISE'S STORY »