Register your DD214 with your local courthouse
Several months back somebody around here posted information about things you should do when you seperate from the service. One of the things mentioned was registering your DD214 with your local courthouse. I had never heard of doing this, but if you have or are thinking about it, then you should check this out.
By Andrea West
It was one of the last pieces of advice I received while preparing to leave active duty. "Take your DD-214 down to the county courthouse and register it," my first sergeant said. "That way, if
you lose the hard copy you can replace it easily."
It seemed like wise advice at the time - since it can be very difficult to replace a lost DD-214 form - but filing your formal discharge document with a local courthouse can make you
extremely vulnerable to an even more serious problem: identity theft.
But as Kelly Reid, an alert DefenseWatch reader, recently alerted us, the danger is very real:
I had a retired Master Chief come by my office this morning with a scary story. His identification was stolen the beginning of September. He received a call from a lady at
American Express because someone had established credit with them (in his name) and was trying to cash a $9,000 check in his name in early September, made out to a
Muslim/Arabic-sounding name. The lady flagged the check because apparently she had a different address on file for the Master Chief than what showed on the check. When
she called him, he of course reported it.
Last night, the Master Chief received a call from an investigator telling him that they finally tracked down the fellow who stole his identification. The guy is a lawyer and had a
lap-top computer with several thousand military names, SSN's and other information. Each military person was a separatee or retiree and their common link was that they had
their DD-214s filed with a county clerk. The Master Chief was told that this lawyer had accessed the DD-214 information through the public court computer system.
When I left the service, I followed my first sergeant's advice and had my DD-214 registered with the county clerk and recorder. For convenience, I did this in several places as I moved around
the country. When I heard about this situation, I called two of the counties where I am registered (for obvious reasons, I won't say where) to see what their security procedures are.
Bad news: one of the county clerks said that the DD-214 is a public document and there is no legal way to prevent someone from looking at it and requesting a copy. Moreover, since this
particular county clerk intends to post all documents online at some point, my DD-214 and others will be available on the Internet as well.
The second county clerk I contacted said the office is aware of the security problem, and on a recommendation from the county attorney has removed the index to all filed DD-214s from
public view. They also now require that a person trying to access a DD-214 prove that he or she is either the person named therein or that he or she has this person's permission. While the
county in question cannot remove the documents themselves from public access, it intends to take all legally permissible steps to keep potential identity thieves out of the DD-214s. At the end of
our conversation, I asked this clerk to speak to his counterpart in the first office I had spoken to and pass along these ideas.
You cannot underestimate the hazard of someone obtaining your DD-214. A DD-214 is an identity document. It links a Social Security number to a name, and makes it simple for an identity
thief to connect the dots. In view of this, it is unwise in the extreme to register a DD-214 at the county courthouse.
If you have done so, the best you can do is protect yourself against identity theft. The best defense is vigilance. According to the Federal Trade Commission's ID Theft website
(www.consumer.gov/idtheft/), you should check with the three major credit bureaus and request a copy of your credit ratings from each of them. The URLS are as follows:
Equifax: www.equifax.com/ 1-800-685-1111 fraud line 1-800-525-6285.
Experian: www.experian.com 1-888-EXPERIAN (397-3742) fraud line 1-888-EXPERIAN.
TransUnion: www.tuc.com 1-800-916-8800 fraud line 1-800-680-7289.
If you discover items in your credit history that look fraudulent to you, notify the credit bureau immediately. The FTC has additional recommendations at the following website:
Next, keep close track of your personal information. Watch bills and bank statements and follow up if they don't arrive on time. If you intend to dispose of anything with your credit card
number, driver's license number, SSN, signature, bank account number, or the like on it, destroy it by thoroughly tearing it up or shredding it finely. Be especially vigilant about credit card
offers. Dispose of them as you would a piece of credit information. If possible, it may be worthwhile to have your mail delivered to a secure post office box instead of to your house.
It is worth the effort to contact your county records section and see what the county is doing to prevent theft of DD-214s. It is recommended that you encourage the county clerk to look into
the matter if he or she is not already doing so.
Andrea West is DefenseWatch Veterans editor. She can be reached at email@example.com.
I used to be msg-84, but somehow that account became FUBAR.
That is a valuable piece of information, Thanks.
In time of peace, prepare for war.
You can do everything with bayonets but sit on them.