May 24, 2006
CURRAN OFFERS ADVICE TO LOCAL VETERANS CONCERNING VETERANS AFFAIRS
Identity thieves have found a myriad of ways to tap into secured
computer data. This time, it just fell into their lap. On May 22,
2006, the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs reported that files
containing confidential information, including names, social security
numbers, dates of birth and disability ratings of 26.5 million
veterans were taken from the home of a government employee during
a burglary. The data did not include health or financial information.
The Department of Veterans Affairs stated that to date they are
unaware of any illegal usage of the information stolen. Maryland
Attorney General J. Joseph Curran warns local veterans to be on
guard against possible identity theft and advises veterans to take
precautionary steps to reduce their risk of identity theft. Attorney
General Curran announced that veterans may wish to take the following
1. You should check your credit reports to look for any signs of fraudulent
activity, such as new credit accounts opened that you did not request. By
law, each of the nationwide consumer reporting companies – Equifax,
Experian, and TransUnion – upon your request, must provide you with
a free copy of your credit report once every 12 months. To obtain a free
copy of your credit report visit www.annualcreditreport.com, call
1-877-322-8228, or write to Annual Credit Report Request Service, P.O. Box
In Maryland, consumers are entitled to a free credit report each
year under both federal and state law, so you are entitled to two
free reports per year from each of the three reporting agencies.
You may wish to stagger your requests among the major credit reporting
agencies. In other words, request one report from an agency this
month, another report from another agency next month, and a third
report from the remaining agency the following month.
2. You may wish to put a fraud alert on your credit
file, which will alert potential creditors to take additional
reviewing applications for credit in your name. You can request
a fraud alert by calling any one of the three credit reporting
agencies at their fraud department numbers, below. The company
you call is required to contact the other two so that they can
put a fraud alert on their file, too. Ask to add a victim’s
statement to your report, such as “My identifying information
has been stolen. Contact me at [your telephone number] to verify
all credit applications.” Fraud alerts are placed for at
least 90 days.
Equifax: Report fraud: (800) 525-6285.
Experian: Report fraud: (888) 397-3742.
TransUnion: Report fraud: (800) 680-7289.
You should keep in mind that placing a fraud alert will take more
time for you to open new lines of credit and may prevent you from
opening a new credit account at a store to make an immediate purchase.
These inconveniences may be worthwhile if it prevents you from
becoming a victim of identity theft.
3. You should be vigilant over the next few months, checking
not only your credit reports but also your bank and credit account
statements for any signs of unauthorized activity. For example
you should look for:
made to your credit card, or withdrawals from your bank account,
that you did not make.
credit cards that you did not apply for.
denied credit, or being offered less favorable credit terms,
like a high interest rate, for no apparent
calls or letters from debt collectors or businesses about merchandise
or services you did not buy.
you do find fraudulent activity, you should immediately contact
the fraud department of the bank, credit
card or other company
with whom an account has been fraudulently opened or tampered with.
You should also contact the police to file a report. Follow the
steps in the Maryland Attorney General’s pamphlet Identity
Theft: What to Do If It Happens to You, which you can download
by going to www.oag.state.md.us/consumer/idtheft.htm.
The Federal Trade Commission’s Identity Theft website also
has useful information and form letters that identity theft victims
including a fraud affidavit form accepted by many businesses: www.ftc.gov/idtheft.
More information about the breach as well as steps that the U.S.
Department of Veterans Affairs is taking to respond to the breach
is available at their website (www.va.gov/opa) or at 1-800-FED-INFO