A five-year analysis of data gathered by IdentityTheft.gov reveals that “active duty service members are 76% more likely than other adults to report that an identity thief misused an existing account,” and “nearly three times as likely” to report the fraudulent use of a debit card to steal funds from their bank account.
The findings, based on identity theft reports filed between 2015 and 2019, also suggest that service members are experiencing more identity-theft related crimes than non-military consumers.
The FTC report delves deeper, concluding that military personnel are 22% more prone to falling victim to new account fraud than the general population. Additionally, one-fifth of active troops state they “have already experienced two or more types of identity theft.”
Why? Identity theft crimes are not always easy to spot, and overseas troops do not have the time or means to tackle the early warning signs, and, most of the time, bills and credit card charges are sent to old addresses.
Regrettably, almost 14% indicate that a close relative or acquaintance is responsible for stealing their identity, compared to 7% of non-military adults.
“Reports suggest that this often happens when people have access to important documents or financial records left behind during military assignments” the FTC said.
There is some good news, however. Many active duty troops report they have taken some precautions. 50% say they review their credit reports and 40% note that they have placed a fraud alert after reporting identity theft.
What does the FTC recommend? Recovering from an identity-theft related crime is no stroll in the park. In a worst-case scenario, it can take years for a victim to patch up their identity and recover financially. Service members are recommended to follow good cyber hygiene practices and regularly check their finances. Additional protective measures are advised:
• Immediately report stolen or lost credit cards
• Check your bank account for unauthorized transactions
• Temporary lock or freeze your card for online transactions
• Don’t share your PIN or passwords and do not provide personal information via email or phone
• Enable an active duty alert on your credit reports if you are deploying on an overseas mission