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For Immediate Release
May 24, 2006
Media Contact:
Kevin Enright 410-576-6357

CONSUMER ALERT:
CURRAN OFFERS ADVICE TO LOCAL VETERANS CONCERNING VETERANS AFFAIRS SECURITY BREACH

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 steps:


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 105281, Atlanta, GA 30348-5281.

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 precautions when 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:

  • Charges made to your credit card, or withdrawals from your bank account, that you did not make.
  • Receiving credit cards that you did not apply for.
  • Being denied credit, or being offered less favorable credit terms, like a high interest rate, for no apparent reason.
  • Getting calls or letters from debt collectors or businesses about merchandise or services you did not buy.

If 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 can use, 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 (333-4636).

   

Attorney General of Maryland 1 (888) 743-0023 toll-free / TDD: (410) 576-6372
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