US Troops Have Another Battle: Identity Theft

Pentagon too casual with Social Security numbers, says report
By John Johnson,  Newser Staff
Posted Dec 7, 2010 1:32 PM CST
File photo of a Marine on patrol in Afghanistan.   (AP Photo/Dusan Vranic)

(Newser) – Military service members—particularly those serving in Iraq and Afghanistan—are vulnerable to identity theft because the Pentagon tosses around their Social Security numbers too casually, says a study written by a West Point professor and highlighted in the New York Times. Though the culture is changing, service members have long had to regularly use their SSNs on base as identifiers—even for routine stuff like using gym equipment. The vicious-cycle kicker: Troops with bad credit are less likely to be promoted by the brass that put their credit at risk.

The military "shows little regard for their personal information," says the report. In June, for instance, identity thieves got their hands on the SSNs of 20 soldiers from Fort Hood and made more than 2,500 attempts to open credits and the like. What's worse, the victims were stationed overseas at the time—which identity thieves love. "If you’re operational and you’re out there, you can’t do anything about the harm being done in the United States,” says a Navy official.

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