After spending time in the service of their country, some veterans come home to fight a different battle. Vets of all ages are fighting to protect themselves against veteran identity theft and fraud. Processes meant to make life easier for soldiers may be contributing to the problem.
Not all veterans receive an ID card. Around half of all vets must use a full-sheet print out known as a DD214 to receive third-party benefits like discounts from local businesses. Presenting the DD214 puts the vet at risk, because the paper contains the vet’s social security number. Even though the third-party business may be reputable, each time the DD214 is copied or viewed, a vet’s information is at risk. Two veterans have come up with a solution to reduce veteran identity theft while allowing vets to retain access to discounts. The program is called ID.me. Vets can sign up for this online service which encrypts sensitive data.
Identity Thieves like Easy Prey with Good Benefits
Several recent news stories illustrate how identity thieves will go after easy prey and extra benefits. In a recent incident in Florida, VA hospital employees stole private information regarding patients to file fraudulent tax returns. Identity thieves may also target veterans in order to file for special VA benefits. Active-duty military members are at risk because thieves may consider deployed individuals distracted and assume they won’t be monitoring credit reports. Older vets are at risk, as thieves consider them easy targets for phishing scams.
Don’t Be a Veteran Identity Theft Target
If you’re a vet (or have a veteran loved one), you can protect your identity by signing up for programs like ID.me. You should also understand your privacy rights as a patient, know how to monitor and protect personal identification information, and dispose of extraneous sensitive documents through shredding.