VA Educates Veterans on Identity Theft

Responding to a need among the veteran community, the Veterans Administration has launched a new campaign to educate veterans about avoiding identity theft.

The campaign, called "More Than a Number," includes an educational website and a toll-free help line.

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"We recognize that for veterans, as for all Americans in the digital age, identity theft is a growing concern,” said Steph Warren, VA’s Chief Information Officer, in a statement. “Our goal is to help educate and protect those who have protected this great country.”

While veterans face the same risk of identity theft as anyone else, there have also been specific breaches of veterans' personal information in the past.

An ID card issued to veterans was found to have a glitch earlier this year in which bar code scanners could reveal the cardholder's Social Security number.

The VA is now in the process of replacing the cards, and the agency is reducing the use of Social Security numbers entirely. Social Security numbers have been removed from VA prescription labels, bottles and mailing labels and have been removed or reduced to the last four digits on VA correspondence, according to the More Than a Number website.

The VA says it is committed to safeguarding veterans' personal information and has implemented a records management system to prevent disclosure of personally identifiable information, but when there is a data breach, the VA provides veterans affected with free enrollment in a credit protection service. This gives veterans access to fraudulent charge alerts, fraud resolution and identity theft insurance, according to the VA.

Among other measures, the VA recommends that veterans shred sensitive documents, lock their computers and use strong passwords to prevent identity theft.

Warning signs for veterans that they may be victims of identity theft are unexplained charges on a credit card bill, not receiving bills or other mail or being denied credit for no clear reason, according to the VA.

The VA recommends that veterans who think they may be victims place a fraud alert on their credit reports and review them carefully and file a report with their local police department.

The agency offers awareness training to its employees as well as information sessions and events to spread the word about information protection best practices.

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