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Stolen VA records: Airmen urged to be vigilant


Air Force officials are asking Airmen to stay extra vigilant in protecting their credit and themselves from identity theft in light of the recent theft of 26.5 million veteran’s records from the home of a Department of Veterans Affairs employee in May.

The VA announced over the weekend that the stolen records might include personal information of people currently in the military, according to a VA news release. Initial findings from the VA indicated the personal information on about 50,000 active duty, National Guard and Reserve Airmen may have been involved.

As the two agencies compared electronic files, VA and the Department of Defense learned that personal information on as many as 1.1 million active-duty servicemembers, 430,000 National Guardsmen, and 645,000 members of the Reserve may have been included in the data theft, according to the VA release June 7.

The VA has received no reports that the stolen data has been used for fraudulent purposes. However, the VA is asking all veterans to carefully monitor bank statements, credit card statements and any statements relating to recent financial transactions.

Several resources are available for people to go to for more information. The VA has set up a special Web site at www.firstgov.gov/veteransinfo and a toll-free telephone number, 800-FED-INFO or 800-333-4636, that feature up-to-date news and information on the data compromise.

The site offers tips on how to check credit reports, how to guard against identity theft and whom to call if an individual believes any fraudulent activity is occurring using his or her personal information.

The Air Force and Department of Defense are working closely with the VA to determine how many Airmen and other service members may be affected by the compromise of records. Airmen whose information has been compromised will be notified by the VA so they can take the appropriate steps.

Tips on how to watch for suspicious activity include the following:

-- Closely monitor your bank and credit card statements for fraudulent transactions. Monitoring accounts online is the best way to detect fraud early.

-- Place a 90-day fraud alert on your credit report, which tells creditors to contact you before opening any new accounts or making any changes to your existing accounts. This action may cause some delays if you are trying to obtain new credit.

-- It is only necessary to contact one of three companies to place an alert. That company is then required to contact the other two. The three companies are Equifax (800-525-6285, www.equifax.com); Experian (888-397-3742, www.experian.com); and TransUnion (800-680-7289, www.transunion.com).

Once the fraud alert has been posted, you are entitled to free copies of your credit reports. Review these reports for inquiries from companies you haven’t contacted or accounts you didn’t open. The alert can be renewed after 90 days.

Airmen are advised to take the following steps if they discover fraudulent accounts or transactions:

-- Contact the financial institution to close the fraudulent account(s) that have been tampered with.

-- File a report with the local police department.

-- File a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission by phone at 877-438-4338, online at www.consumer.gov/idtheft, or by mail to Identity Theft Clearinghouse, Federal Trade Commission, 600 Pennsylvania Avenue NW, Washington, DC 20580.

Additionally, Family Support Centers across the Air Force are prepared to assist anyone with questions regarding identity theft or similar financial concerns, Air Force officials said.

Additional help can be found online at: