As May is Military Appreciation Month, a month-long observance to honor active service members and veterans, it’s important to note that serving in the military doesn’t guarantee protection against identity theft. Unfortunately, military personnel and their loved ones are at higher risk of becoming victims of identity theft and other types of fraud.
Here are some startling statistics from the Federal Trade Commission (FTC):
Active-duty service members are three times as likely to report misuse of a debit card or other electronic methods to withdraw money from their accounts.
Active-duty service members are 76% more likely than civilians to report misuse of an existing account, like a bank account or credit card.
Active-duty service members are 22% more likely than civilians to report that their stolen information was used to open a new credit card or other account.
This blog covers why military members are more vulnerable to identity theft, how they can help prevent it, how to spot warning signs, and where to report identity theft if they become a victim.
Why Do Scammers Target Military Members?
Unfortunately, your status as an active or retired military member makes you a target for scammers. Criminals may try to steal your money or personal information and scam you. Military members are popular targets for identity theft for several reasons:
Steady income and/or government benefits are attractive targets for criminals.
Scammers may have the ability to pose as military members or government agencies.
Military members move every two to three years on average. Frequent relocations can make it difficult to spot early warning signs of identity theft.
Data breaches at government agencies may lead to the sale of servicemembers’ personal information online.
Military members are accustomed to sharing personal information. The DD214, which contains highly sensitive information, is used to prove military service, and for many years the Department of Defense and Veterans Affairs used Social Security numbers (SSNs) to identify military members.
Military members can be deployed for significant lengths of time, meaning they don’t have immediate access or the ability to review their bank accounts, credit card statements and other financial information.
What Can Military Personnel Do to Help Protect Themselves from Identity Theft?
Here are some steps you can take to help protect yourself from identity theft:
Use strong, unique passwords for every single account you have. Consider signing up for a password manager that automatically generates unique passwords.
Enable multifactor authentication for online accounts.
Guard your personal information and be careful of where you share it.
Review your credit reports and dispute inaccurate information with the major credit bureaus.
Sign up for an active-duty alert with the major credit bureaus when you’re deployed. This encourages lenders and creditors to take extra steps to verify your identity before opening an account in your name.
File an identity theft report with the FTC at IdentityTheft.gov or by calling 877-382-4357.
Freeze your credit with the three major credit bureaus – Equifax ®, Experian ®, and TransUnion®.
Contact your installation’s Personal Financial Manager (PFM) for free financial advice and Legal Assistance Office for free legal advice.
Military service members should regularly check their credit reports, use strong passwords to help protect their online accounts, and be cautious about sharing personal information to safeguard their identity. These steps can help reduce the risk of identity theft and prevent financial damage.