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Jeff Anzulewicz

Army striving to combat identity theft

By Andrea Takash

WASHINGTON (Army News Service, Jan. 30, 2004) - The Army is working to ensure that thieves can't steal the personal information of Soldiers, their families and Army civilians.

Over the past five years, 27 million American adults have been victims of identity theft, according to the Federal Trade Commission's 2003 Identity Theft Survey Report.

"Identity theft was the number two most reported crime to the federal government in 2003, and it is on the rise," said Peter D. Anzulewicz, information assurance analyst, Army Web Risk Assessment Cell.

The Army Web Risk Assessment Cell in the Information Assurance Directorate will release a distance learning training course on Feb. 1 that contains a section on DoD and Army Web site policy and an interactive Web site. The interactive Web site will test Web administrators' knowledge of the policies.

"The distance learning training course will teach Web administrators what is and is not permitted on publicly accessible Army Web sites," Anzulewicz said.

"We have been working with other Department of Defense agencies to minimize the risk of identity theft through the removal of inappropriate personal information from Army publicly accessible Web sites during the AWRAC review of Web content," Anzulewicz said.

For example, commanders' biographies on the Web no longer list the names of family members. The publicly accessible Web sites should only list office names and phone numbers. The only names on the Web sites should be Army spokespeople, Anzulewicz said.

Anzulewicz explained that it is imperative for securing personal information that Web administrators, Web masters and commanders understand the DoD and Army's Web policies. "Criminals don't have to be clever to steal identities; they are just a keyboard away," he said.

In 2003 alone, consumers reported losses totaling more than $400 million from fraud, according to Consumer Sentinel, the complaint database maintained by the FTC.

Under the Identity Theft and Assumption Deterrence Act, it is a federal crime when someone transfers or uses a means of identification of another person with the intent to commit any unlawful activity that constitutes a violation of Federal law.

Identity theft takes only minutes for thieves to accomplish while recovering from identity theft takes months to years for the victims of this serious crime, Anzulewicz said.

He said it is more dangerous when Soldiers become victims of identity theft.

"If a Soldier in Baghdad has his credit card stolen, the criminal will max it out without his knowledge. Then, his wife back in the states can't buy food for the kids. The Soldier is thinking of his family starving back in the states. Identity theft makes Soldiers ineffective and puts them in harms way," Anzulewicz said.

Three common ways of stealing identities exist. "Most identity thieves take personal information out of mailboxes or trash cans," Anzulewicz said. However, the Internet is a growing outlet for criminals, he said "People give their personal information away everyday on the Internet," Anzulewicz said.

He said Soldiers and their families can protect themselves from identity theft by being cautious of giving out their personal information.

"Also, make sure you check your credit card bills for abnormal charges. Invest in a shredder and shred all of your personal information before throwing it away," he said.

If your credit card is missing or stolen, Anzulewicz said immediately call the credit card company. "Ask that a 'fraud alert' be placed in your file," he said.

Furthermore, he advises people to order an annual copy of their credit report from the three credit reporting agencies - Equifax, Trans Union and Experian. Check for accuracy on the reports and make sure the activities listed were authorized.

Identity theft victims should call the Federal Trade Commission Identity Theft Hotline at 1-877-ID-THEFT, Anzulewicz said. When people call the hotline, trained personnel guide them through the steps needed to resolve their issues resulting from identity theft.

For more information on identity theft, go to the Federal Trade Commission's Web site at http://www.consumer.gov/idtheft/.

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