In the past, we’ve written about the specific times in people’s lives when they are at the greatest risk of identity theft. Newlywed couples are one example of people who are at a higher risk, as are home buyers. But timing isn’t the only thing that affects your chances of becoming a victim. So too can your choice of career.
One particular group of people who are at an elevated risk of identity theft are members of the U.S. military. This has been true for decades, and for one very specific reason. When serving in the military, service members use a nine-digit service ID number for nearly everything. This number has been a service member’s Social Security Number since the 1960s.
“Your dog tags, your medical records, your service records, any advancement exams that you take — I have thousands of pieces of paper with my Social Security Number on it,” Lindsay Church, a former Navy linguist, told Southern California Public Radio.
Last year, the Federal Trade Commission estimated that as many as 26,000 members of the military had their identities stolen as a result of this blatant security flaw. Church found herself in a particularly difficult spot shortly after leaving the Navy, when someone broke into her car and stole important documents.
“I thought the only thing that was stolen was my medication,” she told the news source. “Then I realized that my medical records were missing. They started opening new credit cards and opening new accounts and the police couldn’t help me. There was nothing they could do except give me the number of the credit bureau.”
Though many organizations have already taken action to ensure that members are not being identified by their Social Security Numbers, the Department of Defense has been slow to protect service members from this obvious security flaw. While the department claims to be making progress on this issue — by giving service members unique, ten-digit DOD numbers that will replace their Social Security Numbers — it may be as long as seven years before the military has completely removed all Social Security Numbers from important documents, including the bar codes, QR codes and magnetic strips of military ID cards.
Until this is resolved, members of the military need to be vigilant about the security of their personal information. Service members who want to avoid identity theft need to be particularly careful when transporting or storing their papers and identity cards. In the event that these documents are compromised, they should immediately place a fraud alert on their credit reports and to counteract any thieves who may try to open new bank accounts or credit cards in their name.
This is why it is important to use a credit monitoring services. This resource allows people to manage their risk by keeping an eye out for some of the broader financial impacts of ID theft . Such a service will alert you if certain activity that may be indicative of fraud has appeared on your credit file. From there, you can take the the steps necessary to prevent fraud from harming your finances.