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October 22, 2010


Identity protection information available to Fort McCoy community

People in the Fort McCoy community are advised to use common sense and be proactive with their financial information to help protect themselves against identity theft.

Shawn Harrigan of the Fort McCoy Police Department said an important piece of information to safeguard is Social Security numbers.

One of the latest schemes targets the Social Security numbers of children, often long before they even have a bank account. Thieves use computers to find dormant Social Security numbers — often those assigned to children who don’t use them — and then sell them to other people who use them to help establish phony credit and run up huge debts they don’t intend to repay.

From a military standpoint, not divulging Social Security numbers can be difficult at times as these numbers are requested for official government business. Harrigan said refusal to divulge this information may affect things such as pay, movement orders, law enforcement contact and Defense Enrollment Eligibility Reporting System transactions, etc.

“To whom you give out your Social Security number comes back to common sense,” Harrigan said. “I do not know of any bank or financial institution that sends out generic e-mails or makes random calls seeking information.”

People must be aware to whom they talk, to whom they give credit card and bank information to and should destroy receipts before they go into the trash.

Bryan Clarkin, the Financial Readiness program manager for the Army Community Service Center at Fort McCoy, said online sources, such as http://www.ftc.gov/bcp/edu/microsites/idtheft/ (Federal Trade Commission) and http://www.bbb.org/us/Military/Army/ (Better Business Bureau), can provide valuable information about combating other current identity-theft schemes including skimming, medical-identity theft, social-networking abuse and Family-and-friends-identify theft.

Skimming is done by installing special equipment in systems that read credit or debit cards, for example. Thieves use the equipment to make copies of bills and to capture financial information illegally.

Thieves also can use identity theft to get access to your doctors, dentists, prescriptions and procedures and then send you and your insurer the bill. Receipt of bogus medical bills may indicate someone may be using your medical benefits.

Social networking allows people to keep up with friends, Family members and colleagues, but it also may make personal details, such as age, hometown, employer and personal favorites available to thieves.

Identity theft by friends and Family members accounts for nearly half of all identity crimes.

Clarkin said tips from experts include not leaving wallets, credit card information/statements, etc., where someone can have easy access to them.

People also should routinely check their credit report for signs of financial fraud.

“I can provide people in the Fort McCoy community with information about how to protect themselves from identity theft, phishing schemes, or by freezing credit accounts,” Clarkin said.

For more information, call Clarkin at 608-388-6812.

(See related story.)

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