Taking the right steps to protect your identity, data and financial information is a crucial skill for anyone. But it’s even more imperative for military families, who are at an increased risk for ID theft. Whether you’re a Service Member or a Veteran, there are additional risks that you face that civilians don’t.

With that in mind, we’ve put together this comprehensive Florida Military ID Theft Prevention Guide. It covers all of the threats you may face and how you can avoid them. We’ve also included links to other resources from our partners, such as the Florida Attorney General’s Office and CFPB.

Standard threats all Americans face

Tips for defending your identity online

  • Only enter debit card or credit card information on a website that you know is secure
    • Look for a lock next to the web address
    • The web address bar should be green
    • The web address should begin with https://
  • Never email sensitive financial information, including your Social Security Number
  • Never enter account information on a website you get to from a link in an unsolicited email
    • In fact, avoiding any response to an unsolicited email – don’t engage with strangers!
  • Never check online financial accounts or shop online using public wi-fi or hotspots
  • Make sure wireless routers in your home are password-protected
  • Don’t use networked computers or public workstations to conduct financial business, such as online banking
  • Never save passwords on a pubic workstation or networked computer
  • Make sure logins and passwords are unique and change them often
  • Always keep anti-virus, malware protection and anti-spyware software up-to-date
  • Don’t ignore updates on your devices! These often include security updates
  • Don’t overshare on social networks – even sharing your address and full contact information increases your risk
    • If you do share information socially, make sure to check the security settings on each site you use and tweak them accordingly
  • Don’t just leave accounts you no longer use open – close them
  • Make sure you clear the hard drive before you sell or dispose of a computer
  • Take time to educate your children on surfing and sharing safely without risking identity theft

ID theft defense at home

  • If possible, get a mailbox that locks so sticky fingers can’t nab your mail before you do
    • If you can’t lock your mailbox, make sure to get your mail promptly
    • If you’re travelling or get deployed, ask the Post Office to hold your mail
  • Cut up old debit cards and credit cards before you dispose of them
  • Shred all financial documents before you throw them out
  • Never have checks sent to you; pick them up at the bank instead
  • Keep personal information, your Social Security card and any other sensitive documents locked in a filing cabinet

Defending your identity when you’re out

  • Keep your purse or wallet (and your military ID) locked up when you’re out and away from it, like at the gym
  • Never leave important credit cards or financial documents in your car
  • Don’t carry your Social Security card with you unless you need it
  • Don’t allow store clerks to take a credit card or debit card where you can’t see it
  • Don’t write your Social Security number on a check

2 preventative steps you can’t afford to miss

In addition to the preventative tips listed above, there are two steps you should take to ensure your identity and financial accounts remain secure:

  1. Check all financial statements immediately after they’re received to make sure you recognize the transactions
    1. If you sign up to go paperless, make sure to go online to check your statements when you receive the email notification that they’re available
  2. Once every twelve months, go to annualcreditreport.com to download a copy of your credit report from each of the main three credit bureaus
    1. Review your report to make sure you recognize all of the accounts listed there. If someone steals your information and opens an account in your name, it will show up on your report

Military-specific ID theft prevention

  • Prior to deployment, make sure to contact one of the three main credit bureaus in the U.S. (Equifax, Experian, TransUnion) to set up an active-duty fraud alert on your credit report
    • This fraud alert stops pre-screened credit card offers for two years from the date the alert was placed
    • Lenders are also notified that you have an alert on your file if someone tries to open a credit line in your name. They must take reasonable steps to verify your identity before the account can be opened
    • The alert remains for 12 months from the date it was placed unless you remove or extend it
    • You only need to contact 1 bureau – they’ll inform the other two of the alert
  • Old military IDs displayed your Social Security number – dispose properly of any old card that includes your SSN
  • Old Veterans Identification Cards (VICs) may have your SSN embedded in the magnetic stripe, which can be read with any standard card reader; dispose of these properly, too
  • Make sure to change your MyPay PIN often and review payments from the account often
  • Consider setting up Power of Attorney for financial issues, including identity theft, while you are deployed
  • Veterans over 65 should be aware they’re at high risk for “pension poaching” – once you turn 65, you may be eligible for A&A benefits, but review third-party solicitations for setting up A&A thoroughly before you sign anything or provide information

Additional Resources

  • Financial Frontlines provides information about identity theft concerns for Florida military members, as well as a range of other topics
    • Download the Financial Frontlines Resource Guide now
  • Your Money Matter$ is a platform provided through the office of Florida’s Chief Financial Officer; the site includes a section dedicated to identity theft
  • ConsumerFinance.gov is the main website for the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. It has a wealth of resource for identity theft prevention
  • IdentityTheft.gov is the Federal Trade Commission’s website to report identity theft; FTC.gov also hosts a variety of resources you can use to avoid ID theft