Active-duty service members, Veterans and military families are at higher risk of digital threats. According to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), data shows active-duty service members are 76% more likely than other adults to report an identity thief misusing an existing account, such as a bank account or credit card. The FTC also notes they are nearly three times more likely to report debit card misuse or other electronic theft of money directly from bank accounts, and 22% more likely to report that stolen information was misused to open a new account, especially new credit accounts.
Here are some reasons for why the military community has an increased risk of digital threats:
- Members of the military have access to highly sensitive data.
- Service members and their families relocate often.
- Active-duty service members spend long periods of time abroad, making it difficult to monitor accounts.
- Military often use communal wifi or internet wired through a foreign government.
- Members of the military are often photographed in uniform, which includes their name and/or rank.
If any of those situations apply to you, here are some actions you can take to protect yourself:
Service members, Veterans and their family members should practice skepticism. As cyber threats diversify, they are becoming more sophisticated and appear increasingly legitimate. For example, if a caller requests money, ask for enough information to verify who is calling, from where and why.
Consider creating a way for family members to establish trust when receiving a call from a bank or health insurance provider. For example, decide on a code (a word, number, etc.) that only a service member and their spouse know, tell the company, and use the code as another verification method.
Freeze credit and/or set up an active-duty credit alert
While it can be inconvenient to freeze credit, it’s a great way to prevent cybercriminals from opening credit cards, taking out a mortgage or other loans in your name. While credit freezes do not prevent attackers from stealing your identity, they do prevent the criminal from using it to access and steal credit.
An active-duty alert is free and lasts for one year, and the service member’s name is removed from prescreened credit card or insurance offers for two years. Any of the three national credit bureaus can set up an active-duty alert, and whichever one you contact will notify the other two
Explore fraud alerts
In the case of a lost wallet, for example, you might be suspicious that identity theft will occur — even if it hasn’t, yet. Contact one of the three credit bureaus and ask them to set up a free fraud alert. Similar to the process with activeduty alerts, the bureau you contact will notify the two others.
Use strong, and different, passwords for each account
Use complex and different passwords for each of your online accounts. A secure password uses multiple digits and a mix of upper — and lower — case letters, along with special characters such as @, # and %. Don’t use a pet’s name, a hometown or a favorite sports team — or anything a stranger could figure out by looking at your social media history or other publicly available information
Read credit reports and all account statements
The three credit bureaus offer free credit reports once a year. Consider requesting a credit report from one every four months, rather than all three at one time. Read financial, medical and other account statements. If you see something that doesn’t make sense or is a mistake, call the business directly.
Be careful when shopping online
Only shop on websites that protect your personal and financial information with encryption. If a site has “https” at the beginning of the domain, it’s encrypted — the “s” stands for “secure.” You should still use caution, however, as this encryption doesn’t necessarily mean the site itself is from a trustworthy source — only that your data isn’t available to anyone but you and the site you’re visiting.
Shred documents with sensitive information
Whenever possible, don’t leave behind documents with personal information. In the event of a move or relocation, set up mail forwarding so that credit card offers and other sensitive data reach only you and your immediate family.
Explore a virtual private network (VPN)
When traveling, deployed or in any situation where you might be using shared internet or devices, consider a VPN service. There are a number of free VPN services that offer privacy and anonymity by creating a private connection from a public internet network. VPNs encrypt your data, hide your IP address and obscure your online identity.
Get all-in-one protection for the whole family
Aura is an all-in-one, proactive digital safety solution to help keep you and your family safe from identity theft, financial fraud, and online threats. Aura’s technology is easy to use, simple to set up, and comes with 100% U.S.-based customer support that is available 24/7. All subscription plans are backed with $1,000,000 in identity theft insurance for your peace of mind.
We are partnering with Aura to promote safety in a digital world for our service members and their families. As part of our partnership, Sandboxx users will receive 50% off a 1 year subscription to the family plan.