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Mideast edition, Sunday, August 26, 2007

WASHINGTON — Personal records including addresses and Social Security numbers of more than 35,000 veterans and their families were stolen this month from the offices of a POW support organization in Texas, officials announced Friday.

Leadership of the American Ex-Prisoners of War said they are working with local, state and federal authorities to track down the burglars, but they are asking all their members to watch for signs of illegal activity.

“We’ll be notifying all of them of the crime in our upcoming mailings,” said Clydie Morgan, national adjutant for the group. “We need them to keep an eye on their credit accounts and personal records.”

The break-in occurred at the group’s Arlington office on either Aug. 11 or 12. Police records show thieves took a number of computer hard drives, mail, checks and other paper files.

Morgan said those digital and paper records included information on the group’s entire membership, including addresses, dates of birth, Social Security numbers and VA claims data. Department of Veterans Affairs officials also are involved in the investigation.

Veterans concerned about the possibility of identity theft can contact one of the three major consumer reporting agencies to obtain a free credit report and review their current financial status. Those agencies can be reached via phone or online:

n Equifax: 800-525-6285;

n Experian: 888-397-3742;

n TransUnion: 800-680-7289;

Under federal law anyone can place a 90-day fraud alert on their credit report, which forces a thorough identity check before agencies can issue new credit cards or bank accounts.

The alert provides greater security to those worried about criminals stealing their identity, but it can also significantly delay legitimate requests for other services. Commercial monitoring services are also available.

The American Ex-Prisoners of War organization, founded in 1942, is open to all former military prisoners of war, all former civilian internees and the families of those individuals.


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