VA flooded with calls by vets worried about ID theft

first_imgWASHINGTON – More than 120,000 veterans concerned that their personal information was stolen have called the Veterans Affairs Department with questions about what to do about it, a department spokesman said Friday. And veterans groups said they’re inundated with requests for information. The American Legion is setting up a tent Saturday near the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Wall to be staffed through the weekend with people who can answer veterans’ questions about the data theft and other matters. “They’re upset,” said Jerry Newberry, spokesman for the Veterans of Foreign Wars. “One guy said, `I just feel like I’ve been betrayed.”‘ “We were prepared for up to 260,000 a day,” Burns said. The VA will follow up with letters to veterans, which will cost as much as $11 million, Burns said. American Legion spokeswoman Ramona Joyce said the group’s Indianapolis headquarters has been inundated with phone calls, as have local posts. In Washington, a local news show did a segment on the theft and set up a phone bank to field calls from veterans after the newscast. “The phones did not stop ringing,” Joyce said. Legion staffers advised veterans not to close their credit cards or their bank accounts, but to notify those institutions that they’re a veteran and might be at risk of identity theft, Joyce said. Equifax, one of the three credit reporting companies, has seen an increased volume of calls, said company spokesman David Rubinger. The company is required by law to provide one free credit report a year and doesn’t charge for fraud alerts, a notation on a credit report that says an individual believes he’s a victim of identity theft. As a result of the massive data theft, Equifax is charging veterans half the normal cost of its e-mail service alerting customers to changes in their credit report. The service, normally $49.95 to $129.95 is now $24.95 to $64.95 for veterans. “We’re doing our best to help these folks,” Rubinger said. The Internal Revenue Service will help the VA by forwarding letters to veterans whose identifying information might be at risk. The tax agency’s files hold the most recent addresses for taxpayers, and the IRS can forward letters to individuals in certain emergency situations. The IRS plans to use a private vendor to take names and addresses generated by the IRS and affix them to the VA letters. The contractor would not have access to any IRS information systems. Sen. Max Baucus of Montana, the top Democrat on the Senate Finance Committee, urged the IRS to make sure that they cause no more harm to the veterans already affected by the data theft. “Veterans deserve assurances that the IRS’s notification process will not result in their further victimization,” he wrote in a letter to Treasury Secretary John Snow.160Want local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set! AD Quality Auto 360p 720p 1080p Top articles1/5READ MORE11 theater productions to see in Southern California this week, Dec. 27-Jan. 2The VA on Monday revealed that a laptop containing the names, birth dates and Social Security numbers of 26.5 million veterans who were discharged since 1975 was stolen from an employee’s home May 3. The department, under intense criticism for failing to notify the FBI about the theft for nearly two weeks, has sought to control the damage from the security breach. The VA’s inspector general is investigating whether the use of data at the employee’s home was proper. VA Secretary James Nicholson pledged a thorough investigation and ordered employees to attend classes on privacy and cyber security awareness. The department also set up a Web site and toll-free number to answer veterans’ questions and to reassure them that so far there haven’t been any instances of identity theft linked to the burglary. VA spokesman Matthew Burns said the department received 121,484 calls to a toll-free number between Monday noon and Friday noon. last_img

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