Military members are increasingly becoming targets of identity theft. Thankfully, I have not been one of the countless victims of identity theft. One of the main reasons military members make easy targets is because their Social Security Number is used for tracking everything in the member’s career. Member’s SSNs end up on literally thousands of documents during the course of their career.
The Problem: Military members are required to write their SSN on just about every official and non-official document during their career. Every medical file, performance review, deployment order, relocation order, financial form, and hundreds of other official documents require the inclusion of the member’s SSN. When I was enlisted and ate at the chow hall, we had to sign a clipboard with our last name and SSN. This was unsecured and anyone could easily copy numbers or walk away with the entire clipboard. This was only about 5 years ago. Since then most bases have moved to a computerized tracking system.
I was only in the military for a few years, but I can guarantee you my SSN is on several hundred, if not several thousand documents (probably several thousand). As I said before, luckily, I have not been a victim of identity theft!
Having the SSN on many documents is not a huge problem in and of itself, but it becomes a problem when they are not secured. The SSNs and other information are supposed to be protected by the Privacy Act, but that does not always stop thieves. There have been several major incidents in recent months involving the theft of computers containing the SSNs of millions of current and former military members. This lack of security gives thieves many opportunities to target military members for identity theft.
The Solution: Unfortunately, there is no clear cut solution. The SSN is the only unique number that every US citizen has. The SSN is only used by one person, and it is theirs for life. A possible solution would be to assign every military member a unique military ID number. This could go on every military document, and its only use would be to identify a specific military member. The military ID number would be useless for anything not affiliated with the military, and therefore could not be used for identity theft.
Will it happen? I don’t know. It would be extremely expensive and time consuming, but it would make millions of military members and veterans feel a lot safer.