U.S. military personnel have emerged as prime identity theft targets.I didn't like it before computers took hold - and I like it even less now. Problem is, we are so tied to our bureaucracy and ossified decision process, we cannot get rid of something we know is so wrong. Our shame - no actual - Congress' shame. They can fix this. It is not as physically bad as the medical care problems, but the financial problems of identity theft is, has, and will destroy families, careers and lives because the Administrators who are supposed to serve the Warfighter think it is, "too hard."
The Department of Defense since the late '60s has used Social Security numbers for everything from dog tags to chow-line rosters. Now, data thieves and con artists have begun to increasingly target military personnel, data security experts say. "Thieves know this is the Achilles' heel of the system," says Todd Davis, CEO of identity theft detection firm Lifelock.
Data thieves in the past year have grabbed computers containing sensitive data for nearly 30 million active and retired service members from four Veterans Affairs offices. That's a big portion of the more than 100 million personal records reported lost or stolen in the USA since 2006, based on a USA TODAY analysis of data compiled by the Privacy Rights Clearinghouse.
The Defense Department has made it a priority to tighten data-handling policies and has increased training on theft prevention, department spokesman Maj. Stewart Upton said in an e-mail interview. Because of the heavy reliance on the Social Security number, "The cost to remove or replace its use will potentially be very high," Upton said.What a bucket of FOD and a lame excuse.
Last summer, the FBI recovered a Veterans Affairs laptop that had gone missing for two months carrying data for 26.5 million active and retired service members. Agents said they found no evidence the data were misused.Admin weenies - come up with a fix. CJCS, push it. Congress fund it.
But Earl Laurie Jr., 57, of Colorado Springs, isn't so sure. The retired Navy chief petty officer uses a post office box, shreds sensitive papers and does not bank online. Yet, a month after the laptop's recovery, Laurie got phone calls from Capital One and U.S. Bank. Each asked him to confirm he had filled out an online credit card application, for $8,000 at one bank and $15,000 at the other. He had not. "The FBI says nobody got it (his data), but it seems awful funny that a month after that, someone tried to get those credit cards," Laurie said.
Scam artists often target service members deployed overseas. When Marine Cpl. Jacob Dissmore, 22, of Janesville, Wis., returned from Iraq in February 2006, he learned that someone in San Diego had opened credit card accounts, started a T-shirt business and even bought a house using his data.
Lifelock helped him prove the accounts were frauds. It took a year.
Speaking for his son, who is again in Iraq, Michael Dissmore says the corporal doesn't blame the military: "But he wishes they had a better system for tracking … other than Social Security number."