- The Washington Times - Sunday, September 25, 2005

DENVER (AP) — While fighting in Iraq, Army Sgt. Steven Behr suddenly found himself vulnerable at home.

Four computer hard drives containing soldiers’ Social Security numbers and other personal records were stolen from Fort Carson — a crime that could expose Sgt. Behr to identity theft.

Sgt. Behr was one of 15,000 active-duty soldiers notified this month of the theft, as were family members and civilians who work at the Army post in Colorado.

“They have my information for the last 11 years in the military,” Sgt. Behr said last week in Iraq.

“With the way fraud is going in the U.S. these days, anybody could get my credit report, or something like that,” he said. “I’m just trying to figure out how someone could steal four computers from a secure area. They’re supposed to be locked up pretty tight.”

Fort Carson spokeswoman Dee McNutt said there is no way to determine how many records were compromised.

Everyone who could be a potential victim was being notified, she said, adding that there have been no reports that the records have been used to steal identities.

The theft is under investigation by military authorities. The FBI said it has not been called in to assist; the military said it would not ask for help unless there was evidence that a civilian was involved.

The hard drives were stolen in mid-August from a building on the post in Colorado Springs where soldiers get identification cards and update their records, Miss McNutt said. Information stolen included soldiers’ Social Security numbers and dates of birth as well as details on rank, unit and jobs.

Sgt. Behr said he and other members of the 3rd Armored Calvary Regiment fighting in Iraq were told to report any credit card or other unusual financial activity to military police.

Michelle Joyner, a spokeswoman for the National Military Family Association, said soldiers are still at risk even though the military has made strides in helping them protect themselves from identity theft by, for example, no longer requiring them to put their personal information and Social Security numbers on checks and other documents.

Soldiers who go on active duty can put an “active duty alert” on their credit reports, requiring creditors to verify an applicant’s identity before granting credit.

Mary Lou Wild, district manager for the Consumer Credit Counseling Service in Colorado Springs, said soldiers are particularly vulnerable to identity theft because they are usually young, transient, inexperienced in financial matters and do not check their credit histories frequently.

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