U.S. & Around The World
Theft of Soldiers Records Causes Concern
If fighting a controversial war wasn't enough, soldiers are now being made aware of a financial predicament back home. The soldiers, their families, and millions of veterans of past wars are disturbed by the situation.
A laptop computer containing the names and personal information of more than 26.5 million U.S. veterans was stolen from a private residence in Montgomery County, Maryland. The situation has essentially placed the private information of millions of former soldiers in the hands of thieves. The FBI is currently working with the VA, the Office of the Inspector General (VA-OIG) and the Montgomery County Department of Police (MCDP) to recover the stolen computer and an external hard drive which contains the data.
Recent data accountability reports within the Veterans Administration (VA) further revealed that most (nearly 2.2 million) active-duty, Reserve, and National Guard soldiers' personal information is also affected.
At this stage of the investigation, there has been no evidence that the suspect(s) responsible for the theft had any knowledge of what information was stored on the hard drive. But many Americans question the VA's policies on data security and why an employee was even allowed to take such pertinent information home.
A half dozen veterans groups filed lawsuits against the VA demanding full disclosure of which members of the military are affected by the incident and seek $1,000 in damages for each person. The groups are also seeking a court order to bar VA employees from accessing sensitive files until independent experts determine proper safeguarding techniques.
The VA says that the burglary on May 22 saw the removal of a laptop and an external hard drive from the home. The external hard drive contained the names, birth dates and Social Security numbers of both veterans and active soldiers.
There is a cash reward of $50,000 for information leading to the recovery of the computer. Anyone with information should call Crime Solvers of Montgomery County at 1-866-411-TIPS (8477).
If you are a U.S. Veteran discharged after 1975, be sure to closely monitor bank statements and credit reports, and take all necessary steps to protect yourself against identity theft. For more information on how to protect yourself, view The Federal Trade Commission's booklet entitled "TAKE CHARGE: Fighting Back Against Identity Theft" at http://www.consumer.gov/section/scams-and-identity-theft or you can call 1-877-438-4338.
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Photo Courtesy of U.S. Army, Staff SGT Ashley S. Brokop
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