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Captain nearly loses identity

F.E. WARREN AIR FORCE BASE, Wyo. (AFPN) -- The mysterious $644 debit could easily have gone unnoticed last November. The identity thieves preferred it that way. But, Capt. Greg Wood, 90th Space Wing executive officer, noticed the out-of-place debit and quickly investigated its appearance.

"I asked my wife if she got me something extra special," said Wood. "When she said 'No,' I knew that meant trouble."

He immediately called his credit card company to dispute the charge and with a little bit of research he tracked down the business on the Internet.

"Apparently, I ordered an MP3 car stereo over the Internet to be delivered to my home in Yugoslavia," he joked with a heavy dose of sarcasm. "I've never owned an MP3, and I don't remember ever parking my car in Yugoslavia."

Reviewing his credit card statement just two days after the attempted purchase occurred, Wood was able to contact the business and cancel the sale before the items were shipped.

"I have no idea how it happened, but the thief had my credit card number, my full name, my phone number, my street address -- he had everything," Wood said. "I was lucky to find out when I did."

According to the Federal Trade Commission, the simplest of transactions can give an identity thief enough information to ruin someone's credit. Information obtained from writing a personal check, mailing tax returns or applying for a credit card runs the risk of being stolen.

Social Security numbers, names, addresses or phone numbers can then be used without the owner's knowledge to commit fraud or theft such as opening a new line of credit, using that owner's name or fraudulently setting up a bank account, accruing debt under that name.

While the FTC says it may be impossible to prevent identity theft entirely, it does say there are three basic steps to take to prevent identity theft or to repair credit standing.

First, contact the fraud departments of each of the three major credit bureaus, TransUnion at (800) 680-7289, Equifax Credit Information Services at (800) 525-6285 and Experian at (888) 397-3742.

Second, close the accounts that have been tampered with or opened fraudulently.

Third, file a report with local police or the police in the community where the identity theft took place.

If a Social Security number has been misused, contact the Social Security Administration at (800) 269-0271. A complaint should also be filed with the Federal Trade Commission at (877) 438-4338 when personal information has been compromised and misused.

Even though he laughs about it now, Wood admits there was nothing humorous about the prospect of having his credit ruined at the time.

"It wasn't as bad as it could have been, but I learned enough to know I didn't like it," he said. "It could have been a very bad Christmas." (Courtesy of Air Force Space Command News Service)

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