ID theft cases surging among Americans in U.K.
Stars and Stripes November 18, 2008
RAF MILDENHALL, England — The number of U.S. military members in England who have had their identity stolen this year continues to rise, the Air Force said last week.
And even though some bases released the number of ID theft cases earlier this year, Air Force Office of Special Investigations officials would not say last week how many cases have occurred since then, citing the ongoing nature of the investigation.
In August, officials said about 150 identity theft cases totaling $70,000 were reported during the previous month in the U.K., largely involving peoples’ bank accounts being hacked to withdraw funds or make fraudulent charges.
But OSI Special Agent Terry Bullard said last week that releasing the number of cases reported or amounts involved now may tip off the perpetrators to the extent of cases being reported.
Bullard would only say that the number of cases reported and the dollar amounts involved continue to increase.
While OSI is leading the investigation, the cases are now part of a larger task force involving other agencies, such as the Secret Service, Bullard said.
The Secret Service holds jurisdiction over crimes involving currency, counterfeiting, fraudulent electronic funds transfers and other financial crimes.
From July to August, Lakenheath’s 48th Security Forces Squadron reported 66 cases totaling about $38,000.
That’s up from about one reported case a month normally, squadron commander Maj. John Northon said in August.
No arrests have been made in connection with the investigations.
Cases reported over the summer included a $650 shopping spree at Bloomingdale’s in New York City and $1,800 fraudulently charged at a Missouri Wal-Mart.
While OSI and other agencies continue trying to determine the causes of these ID thefts, Bullard said it’s important that victims continue to notify base police if they suspect their bank accounts have been infiltrated.
Tips for avoiding ID theft
If you believe you have been a victim of identity theft, contact your local law enforcement or legal office.Pay attention to billing cycles. A missed bill could mean someone changed your billing address or took over an account.Before revealing any personal information, such as a Social Security number, find out how it will be used and whether it will remain confidential.Guard your mail from theft by requesting a vacation hold when you’re not around.Put passwords on your credit card, bank and other accounts, and avoid easily identifiable passwords, such as your birth date.Do not give out personal information over the phone or Internet unless you have initiated the contact and know with whom you’re dealing.Keep items with personal information such as bank statements, Social Security cards, charge receipts and credit card applications in a secure place.Order a copy of your credit report from the major credit-reporting agencies once a year. Make sure it is accurate and includes only authorized transactions.If you live in the U.K. and are a victim of identity theft this year, e-mail Geoff Ziezulewicz at firstname.lastname@example.org