State Senator James L. Seward today urged veterans who are concerned that their personal information may have been stolen in the VA computer theft to contact the federal government’s special call center.
Veterans may call by telephone -- 1-800-FED-INFO -- or visit the official government website http://www.firstgov.gov or the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs at http://www.va.gov/opa. The call center and websites provide information to determine if veterans’ identification is being used to commit identity theft crimes or fraud, and where to report suspicious or unusual activity.
"Veterans need to know what to do if they suspect that they may be victims of identity theft. I urge all veterans to phone the call center or, if they have access tocomputers, to visit these websites," Seward said.
Seward’s recommendation comes in response to the news that thieves recently stole U.S. Veterans' Affairs electronic data containing the Social Security numbers and birth dates of 26.5 million veterans across the nation, who are now at risk of having their credit compromised or even destroyed.
The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs has recommended that all veterans be extra vigilant and carefully monitor bank, credit card and any other financial statements. Suspicious activity should be reported immediately to the financial institution involved or veterans should contact the Federal Trade Commission. Veterans should also note that the earliest date at which suspicious activity might show up is in May 2006, when the theft occurred.
Seward called on Senators Schumer and Clinton to introduce a federal bill, similar to one already in place in New York, requiring that individuals be notified by mail when their private information is stolen. Last year, in response to the growing problem of identity theft, New York State enacted the Information Security Breach and Notification Act, which requires that consumers be informed in writing whenever an unauthorized person acquires their private information via computerized data so that they can take precautionary measures to prevent becoming victims of identity theft.
"The burden of determining whose personal information was stolen should be placed on the VA, not on our veterans, some of whom are in their 80s and 90s," Seward said. "It should be the responsibility of the VA to contact, in writing, each and every one of those veterans whose confidentiality has been breached as soon as possible."
Identity theft is a growing problem that can have a devastating effect on an individual’s finances. In many cases, it takes years for a victim to recover financially and to straighten out his or her credit records.