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Identity Theft is Mounting Concern to Veterans, All Citizens

[ Return To Senator Roy Dyson's Newsletter ]

Posted on June 02, 2006:

Senator Dyson By Maryland Senator Roy Dyson

It was a very worrisome day for more than 26 million veterans, their spouses and their dependents this past May when it was revealed that a data analyst with the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs had their home broken into and a computer with personal information about these veterans had been stolen.

According to the Department of Veterans Affairs, the FBI and VA are conducting a full investigation into this matter. The good news so far is that the VA has not found any suspicious activity connected with the stolen records. While they haven’t received any evidence that there have been any incidents of theft, the VA is sending out individual notification letters to veterans and their families.

Since these records have been stolen, I have heard from numerous veterans who are concerned. Thankfully, the U.S. Veterans Administration as well as the Maryland Veterans Administration has been quick to act to inform veterans of what they need to do to protect themselves from identify theft.

The VA is asking anyone who is suspicious of illegal behavior to “monitor bank statements, credit card statements and any other statements relating to recent financial transactions.”

If you do see any irregularities, report them to the financial institution involved and contact the Federal Trade Commission at http://www.consumer.gov/idtheft or at (877)-ID-THEFT (438-4338). It is also important for any irregularities or illegal behavior to be reported to the local law enforcement agencies.

There are various ways veterans and everyone for that matter can make sure they maintain vigilance over their personal credit. According to the VA, initiating a fraud alert on your credit files would be the most prudent action for most victims of identity theft, except for those persons who are about to seek a substantial credit line (such as buying a house or a car). To place a fraud alert on your credit files, call any one of the three major credit bureaus listed below:

(1)- Equifax at either 1-800-525-6285 (fraud activity duty alert system) or 1-877-576-5734 (fraud assistance center for veterans or active duty) or write to P.O. Box 740250, Atlanta, GA 30374-0250. You can also visit their website at http://www.equifax.com/.

(2)- Experian (formerly TRW) at 1-888-397-3742, or fax at 1-800-301-7196. You can write to P.O. Box 1017, Allen, TX 75013 or visit their website at http://www.experian.com/.

(3)- Trans Union at 1-800-680-7289 or write to P.O. Box 6790, Fullerton, CA 92634. You can visit their website at http://www.transunion.com/.

When you notify one credit bureau, they are required to alert the others. All three credit bureaus will then send credit reports, free of charge, for your review. You should evaluate your credit reports for any suspicious activity regularly for at least eighteen months.

In Maryland, we have good identity theft records on the books. Last year, I sponsored successful legislation that strengthened the identity theft laws in our State.

According to the Annotated Code of Maryland, identity theft is defined As “Personal identifying information” which means a name, address, telephone number, driver’s license number, Social Security number, place of employment, employee identification number, mother’s maiden name, bank or other financial institution account number, date of birth, personal identification number, credit card number(s) or other payment device number.

What is prohibited by Maryland statute is obtaining another’s personal identifying information without consent or assuming the identity of someone else.

Penalties for this are and should be tough. It an identity thief steals more than $500 or more, they are guilty of a felony and can receive jail time of five years and or a fine up to $25,000.

The Department of Veterans Affairs has established a dedicated toll free telephone number (1-800-FED-INFO) for any questions or concerns connected with this loss of data. You can also visit their website at http://www.firstgov.gov/ for updates.

[ Return To Senator Roy Dyson's Newsletter ]

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