Financial Advice

‘My Country Didn’t Have My Back’: OPM Breach Victim, Veteran Speaks Out

David Thul served 22 years with the Minnesota National Guard, and even though he was a dedicated and loyal service member, Thul — like any employee and employer — had some frustrations with the military. After a stint in Kosovo in 2003 and deployment to Iraq from 2005 to 2007, Thul retired last year, thinking those work-related annoyances were behind him.

In June, he received a letter from the federal Office of Personnel Management, informing him that his information was among millions of records stored in a hacked government database, and he would receive 18 months of free credit monitoring to help him identify any fraud that may arise from the compromised information. The government announced Thursday that more than 21 million Social Security numbers had been exposed in the breach.

The letter didn’t say exactly what of Thul’s data had been taken, only that it related to him having to apply for a security clearance. He did that more than a decade ago, in order to go to Kosovo. That security clearance, as he recalls, involved a 41-page application, including not only detailed information about himself but also his family — his wife and two children.

He noticed the credit monitoring offer only applied to him, even though he believes his wife and children’s identities were exposed.

“It’s really frustrating to think that my family might suffer from my information having been stolen,” Thul said. “It’s hard to grasp the concept of it. … This is everything about you.”

Thul hasn’t yet noticed any signs of fraudulent activity in his name or any other identity theft indicators, but he’s researching identity protection services for him and his family. Before this happened, he said he wouldn’t have even known what to look for.

He’d like to know exactly what information was stolen. Was it the full 41-page security clearance application? Just a part of it? Was his family’s information hacked, too? He said he wants more details from the OPM, so he can better protect himself and his family.

Thul is far from alone in his frustration and desire for answers.

“I’ve talked to a number of people who are members on the House and Senate whose information is in there,” said Adam Levin, an expert on identity theft and co-founder of Credit.com and IDT911. “They’re very angry, and they’re very worried.”

Levin recommends taking advantage of whatever the government offers but also looking to other resources to help monitor for identity theft. Many insurance providers, banks and employers offer a credit monitoring or identity monitoring product to customers or employees for free or little cost, so you should inquire about or sign up for such programs. Here’s a guide on how to use free credit monitoring tools.

That’s just the damage-control part, Levin said. Signing up for a service isn’t enough — you have to regularly check your free annual credit reports, credit scores (you can do that for free on Credit.com), bank statements and any account that could be abused by a fraudster.

These are things everyone should do, not just people who had their information stolen in the OPM breach, because identity theft is a constant and costly threat. Still, the fact that it’s a common problem doesn’t make it any easier to tolerate.

“It’s a pretty crummy feeling that I served my country and my country didn’t have my back on this issue,” Thul said. “You trust the military and the government with your information and they apparently didn’t do a good job protecting it.”

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This article originally appeared on Credit.com.

This article by Christine DiGangi was distributed by the Personal Finance Syndication Network.

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