Identity theft can wreak havoc on a person’s life — impacting their finances, health and good standing in the community. This growing crime poses an even greater threat for military personnel who require security clearance to do their jobs.
Security clearance gives military personnel, as well as civilians working for the government or contractors, access to classified information. But to earn it, they must undergo a rigorous review of their employment history, medical history, criminal record and finances to ensure a company’s or the government’s security.
When a serviceman becomes a victim of identity theft, his clearance may be denied or revoked. Or, if he is in the process of applying for a new position, he will be disqualified from consideration. A background check tainted by fraud may reveal arrests, maxed-out credit cards and tax crimes — all committed by identity thieves using their victims’ personal identifying information.
Take the case of an Air National Guardsman in Alabama. Major Zane Purdy made six figures a year working for a defense contractor until his identity was stolen and sold to a tax fraud ring. He lost his job, was suspended from the Guard and had his security clearance revoked. He found work at a restaurant, where he made $7.25 an hour.
The military has become a huge target for identity thieves, prompting the Veterans Administration to launch a campaign to teach servicemembers and their families how to protect themselves. Adding to the problem: Data breaches are increasingly impacting government contractors that perform security clearances for government agencies.
Service members can take measures to protect their identity and their security clearance standing by following common prevention tips in addition to taking these steps:
- Place an active-duty alert on credit reports. This is similar to a fraud alert as it requires additional verification to open a new line of credit. The Identity Theft Resource Center has a template letter to help those undertaking the process.
- Consider granting a Power of Attorney to a spouse or loved one before they depart. Be sure to choose a trustworthy and responsible individual who has your best interests in mind. More information is available here.
If you’re considering an identity management service, you can check with your insurer, bank or credit union, and employee benefits program, which may offer such protection. Make sure it has the features you need, such as credit monitoring for you and your immediate family.
More on Identity Theft:
- The Risks You Face From Identity Theft
- How Can You Tell If Your Identity Has Been Stolen?
- How Credit Impacts Your Day-to-Day Life