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Supporting the Troops

The VA remembered I existed and sent me their form letter to tell me how they lost my records and put me at risk of identity theft.

The real web site is firstgov.gov/veteransinfo.shtml, rather than the main page they provide, but you have to navigate the 1-800-333-4636 [Fed Info] system, because that’s a general number covering most of the government, not a special number for Vets or this problem.

From the insert:

Where should I report suspicious or unusual activity?

The Federal Trade Commission recommends the following four steps if you detect suspicious activity:

Step 1 – Contact the fraud department of one of the three major credit bureaus:

  • Equifax: 1-800-525-6285; www.equifax.com; P.O. Box 740241, Atlanta, GA 30374-0241
  • Experian: 1-888-EXPERIAN (397-3742); www.experian.com; P.O. Box 9532, Allen, Texas 75013
  • TransUnion: 1-800-680-7289; www.transunion.com; Fraud Victim Assistance Division, P.O. Box 6790, Fullerton, CA 92834-6790

Step 2 – Close any accounts that have been tampered with or opened fraudulently.

Step 3 – File a police report with your local police or the police in the community where the identity theft took place.

Step 4 – File a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission by using the FTC’s Identity Theft Hotline by telephone: 1-877-438-4338, online at www.consumer.gov/idtheft, or by mail at Identity Theft Clearinghouse, Federal Trade Commission, 600 Pennsylvania Avenue NW, Washington DC 20580.

They are using the IRS to make this mailing, so if you are a Vet and too poor to pay taxes, they aren’t going to contact you. At this point if you are Vet, or currently serving, assume your information was on that missing computer.

Note: When I verified the links for the credit bureaus I noticed they all had special pages for Vets.


1 Steve Bates { 06.15.06 at 12:25 am }


For what it’s worth, employees of the local VA… I happen to know a few… are horrified at the irresponsibility of the employee who put this data at risk. In fact, I was treated to a rant from one of them about all the precautions they personally take to protect veterans’ data: it involves both encryption and plain old physical locks and keys.

I understand that’s no comfort to you right now; one person’s irresponsibility has left you vulnerable. I’ve been nailed once, not by full-blown identity theft, but by someone who succeeded in using a bank card number (and apparently not much else) to steal a sizable amount from me and get away with it. (That was my fault; I didn’t follow up quickly enough.) Now that so many credit check services require a SSN, I’m afraid all of us, veterans and nonveterans alike, are going to see a lot more of this.

2 Bryan { 06.15.06 at 1:06 am }

It was weeks before they admitted it, and more than a month before they contacted us.

I should be protected, but it’s one more worry because they didn’t institute basic protections. All this ranting about national security and they don’t actually do anything practical. There should have been security audits and procedures in place years ago in all government offices.