(Host) State officials are urging Vermont veterans to protect their personal information after the theft of millions of computerized records. The data was stored on computer equipment stolen from the home of a Veteran’s Administration employee in the Washington, D.C. area. Officials offered advice on Friday to the thousands of Vermont veterans who may be affected.
VPR’s John Dillon reports:
(Dillon) Lieutenant Governor Brian Dubie was one of 27 million veterans whose personal data may have been compromised more than three weeks ago. A thief stole computer equipment from a Veterans Administration employee on May 3. The computer and external hard drive contained personal information that could be used in identity theft.
Dubie says he was upset to learn that his personal information had been compromised.
(Dubie) “There’s no reason that an individual employee goes to his home with the data of 27 million veterans. Unacceptable! So I share the outrage. I feel violated personally.”
(Dillon) But Dubie is urging veterans to protect their information from being used by thieves or scam artists. He said vets can call a toll-free number maintained by any one of the three major credit bureaus to place a 90-day fraud alert on their credit report. The veteran will be notified immediately if someone else tries to set up accounts or make purchases using the veteran’s name or social security number.
(Dubie) “I did get on the 1-800 number and made the phone call, which allows for – if there’s anyone who uses the data that was stolen on me, it allows me to get an alert. It’s free, it took me about two minutes, it’s very simple. And I have some piece of mind knowing that if someone is going to use the data that was stolen – my data – I’m going to have some piece of mind and know about it.”
(Host) Vermont Veterans Affairs Director Clayton Clark estimates that about 60,000 Vermont veterans may have been affected by the data theft. He said his office has received about two dozen calls from concerned veterans.
(Clark) “The way that they can handle this situation to ensure than any data theft that results as identity theft for them, is to make sure they educate themselves and to make sure they’re vigilant in monitoring their credit report, their bank statements, things that people should be doing already. This is just a real good reminder that we should be doing this all the time now.”
(Dillon) Although there’s no evidence yet that the stolen data has been used for identity theft, Clark said vets should immediately close any accounts that appear to have been tampered with.
Both Dubie and Clark said that veterans can also use a new 211 information line to get help. The Vermont 211 program is an information and referral service run by the United Way. Operators at the 211 call center will have information available to help the veterans.
For Vermont Public Radio, I’m John Dillon in Montpelier.