VA Accidentally Releases Vets' Personal Info
Post date: Jan 24, 2012 6:48:25 AM
January 21, 2012
Stars and Stripes|by Leo Shane III
WASHINGTON -- More than 2,200 veterans had their personal information accidentally posted on the genealogy website Ancestry.com last year, a move that could potentially expose them to identify theft crimes.
Officials from the Department of Veterans Affairs said all of the veterans affected by the mistake will receive free credit monitoring services to help mitigate any damage. The information posted online included veterans’ names and Social Security numbers, but not any health information.
The department said there is no evidence so far that any of the personal information has been misused, but the agency is contacting all of the individuals involved to ensure they are aware of the problem.
VA officials supplied the information to Ancestry.com in March 2011 as part of a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request by the genealogy site. The records were supposed to only contain information on deceased veterans, but also included more than 2,200 living veterans due to a department error.
Department officials found out about the error just last month.
“Ancestry.com has worked with us and immediately removed all the information that we had supplied them,” Jerry Davis, department chief information security officer, said in a statement. “VA places the highest priority upon safeguarding the personal information of our veterans. When lapses occur, we will immediately take prompt remedial action, such as notification.”
Officials said they are still investigating why the information was mistakenly included in the records released to Ancestry.com.
Military.com reported last year that servicemembers killed in action are easy, frequent targets for identity theft because the Social Security Administration is required by FOIA to release their personal information, including full names and social security numbers, to an online database used by sites such as Ancestry.com. That information can then be used to file fraudulent tax returns.
Individuals who believe they may have been affected by this incident have been encouraged to contact the VA. Those whose information was exposed will be eligible for a free credit report for one year.
Those veterans can access the free services by calling 1-877-322-8228 or by visiting http://www.annualcreditreport.com.
Military.com contributed to this report.
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