Today we’ll have a guest post from COL Glenn of The Military Frequent Flyer, talking about the rise of identity theft amongst Active Duty and Veterans, and ways to protect yourself. This is especially germane given how often we use our SSN throughout the day. It also might be a first look at a service called Veteran’s Advantage, a service that I personally have not yet utilized but have begun to do some research on. It is a service designed to give Active Duty and Veterans discounts on a variety of brands from everyday shopping to travel, home & office, health & wellness, and jobs & business services. Check it out, and welcome COL!
Once or twice a year I talk to Scott Higgins, CEO of Veterans’ Advantage, and see what is new over there. I wrote about that recently, but this post is about something else that Scott is impassioned about – Identity Theft amongst veterans. He referenced articles that say that veterans are twice as likely to be victims of identity theft. This does not surprised me as in military life we must give our social security number for just about everything so we are trained to respond as if it is no big deal. And while it is no big deal to hand that information over to your personnel NCO, who has to follow some strict (Personal Identity Information)PII rules, it is quite another to hand out that info to every sales clerk who asks. The military has recognized this within our functions and taken some steps such as giving you a CAC card ID number rather than listing your SSN as in the past.
Here is a page from the Veterans Advantage site that explains their ID theft assistance service that is included with membership. I just want to highlight some of the key points from Scott:
1. Be safe: Do not hand out your PII unless you really need to. Outside of the military, ask the requestor if they really need your entire SSN, DD214, etc. Often they will say no or let you get by with just the last four.
2. Be smart: Don’t be fooled by “free” military discounts or free memberships. Often these sites are just gathering your data to sell to someone else.
3. Be suspicious: Do research on what kind of company you give your PII to. If you don’t know them well, check with the BBB to see if there are any complaints against them.
4. Data grabs are big business. Do business with companies that do not ask for excessive data and don’t ask for a copy of your military ID or other such steps that can exploit your PII.
Be careful out there and counsel those you supervise to do likewise. My nightmare used to be getting my wallet stolen and now that seems trivial compared with the horror stories I hear about victims of ID theft. If you have a Veterans’ Advantage membership, be sure to use their service that comes along with the membership to help you in case of ID theft.