When you are a target - How military, families can prevent identity theft|
by Donovan Jackson
Air University Public Affairs
1/29/2013 - MAXWELL AIR FORCE BASE, Ala. -- Grossing nearly $50 billion a year, identity theft has become the fastest growing crime industry in the United States, according to officials. A prime target for identity thieves are military service members.
The Federal Trade Commission's Consumer Sentinel Network reports that the way the military presents itself can be seen as an easy target to identity thieves because of its various uses of service members' social security numbers and deployment.
"Within the past eight months, I've assisted 10 members and their dependents on Maxwell," said Fran Jackson, personal financial readiness consultant at the Family and Airman Readiness Center. "Identity theft is real and sadly, no one is immune from the terrible crime, however we do possess the tools to combat against it."
According to Jackson, no particular branch within the military is more vulnerable than the other. However, deployed service members within all branches are more susceptible to having their identities stolen.
Experienced identity thieves know that it is more difficult for deployed members to keep up with monitoring their credit report than it is for service members in the states.
To steal information, identity thieves may use phishing emails with installation logos to fool a service member into thinking it is an official military document. When the email is opened, it will force the computer to download malicious malware that will record the computer's keystrokes.
Another common tactic used by identity thieves is retrieving a user's information from an unsecured public internet connection.
According to the FTC, sporadic access to an internet connection, 14-18 hour workdays and military provided computers with limited website accessibility makes deployed members prime targets for identity theft. Additionally, service members who deploy on short notice may often forget a step or two in the moving progress, sometimes causing mail to be delivered to their previous address.
"One way for active-duty service members to eliminate their risk is to place an active-duty alert on their credit report," said Jackson.
Credit agencies created active-duty alert to aid deployed service members in keeping their identity unattainable.
Active-duty alerts work by allowing businesses to conduct extra precautionary measures before granting credit in the member's name. Active-duty alerts last for one year, and can be renewed to match the period of deployment.
"I also encourage service members to invest in a paper shredder," said Jackson. "You minimize the risk of thieves gaining access to discarded documents that may contain vital information.