Scams Target Servicemembers' Families
Officials with the Department of Homeland Security are warning the public about two new Iraq-related Internet scams, including one directed at the relatives of fallen U.S. soldiers.
In the first scheme, a fraudulent e-mail is sent to relatives of U.S. soldiers killed in Iraq. The e-mail asks for assistance in obtaining money that the deceased soldier had set aside for relatives.
In the second scheme, a blanket e-mail claims to be from an Immigration and Customs Enforcement official in Iraq who is responsible for tracking down funds looted from the Iraqi Central Bank by Saddam Hussein's son. The e-mail attempts to confirm the recipient's e-mail address.
The Department of Homeland Security advises anyone who receives the bogus e-mail solicitations to ignore and delete them. Read more about these schemes from the Department of Defense.
Military members make prime targets
Evidence suggests that members of the Armed Forces could be at an even greater risk for identity theft than the average American consumer. Personal records of government personnel may be more publicly available than those of civilians, making it easier for ID thieves to obtain information.
Also, due to frequent moves, servicemembers may be less likely to stay apprised of their financial accounts and credit report, making them less likely to recognize identity theft before it's too late.
While no one can guarantee their own protection from identity theft, there are steps military members can take to reduce their risk and minimize the damage if their information is compromised.
Precautions pay off
Before deployment, draft a durable power of attorney, which allows someone you trust to manage your financial affairs during your absence. You also should arrange to have your mail picked up regularly while you're away.
You may also place an active duty alert on your credit reports to help minimize the risk of identity theft while you are deployed. Active duty alerts remove you from pre-screened credit card offers and are in effect for one year. If your deployment lasts longer, you can place another alert on your credit report.
Contact one of the three consumer reporting companies -- Equifax, Experian, TransUnion -- to place an alert on your credit report.
Stay alert, stay informed
The more you know about identity theft, the more prepared you'll be to protect yourself.
The Federal Trade Commission offers an informative guide on preventing and resolving identity theft. The FTC and the Department of Defense created Military Sentinel to alert consumers about issues that affect members of the United States Armed Forces and their families.