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Identity Theft for the US Military Requires an Immediate Fix

12.07.10

A recent NY Times report is critical of the daily use of the military’s use social security numbers  (SSN)and birthdates, and how poorly Personal Identifiable Information (PII) is managed. Army intelligence officer turned West Point professor Lt. Col. Gregory Conti co-authored a report entitled “The Military’s Cultural Disregard for Personal Information” published at smallwarsjournal.com starts “Identity theft is not simply an inconvenience; it can lead to long-term financial and legal difficulties for individuals and families.” The report includes more than a dozen examples of misuse of PII including:

Social Security numbers and dates of birth are exposed to foreign customs officials when traveling on official orders.

Social Security numbers are exposed, all or in part, to contracted transportation companies and truck drivers during military moves.

Some military organizations use portions of Social Security numbers in email addresses and as computer user names.

Until recently, a Service Academy Alumni Association published books listing all graduate’s dates of birth. Copies are available on Ebay.

Service members, and their family members, frequently provide their Security number-laden military identification card to merchants, clerks, and night club bouncers for military discounts or as proof of age.

Service members in Iraq, Afghanistan, and other foreign countries must show their military identification card to locally contracted, foreign national security guards to gain entrance.

When I was in the Army Reserves 40 years ago the use of SSN was common place including our uniforms, and no one seemed concerned about identity theft. But in our Social Media world of 2010 clearly the US military needs to do something to help our troops and their families....sooner rather than later. This is a serious problem.

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