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Dumpster diving shows potential for identity theft

Victor Duckarmenn, 21st Space Wing Operational Security program manager, goes dumpster diving to make sure there is no personal or classified information being thrown away. (Courtesy photo)

Victor Duckarmenn, 21st Space Wing Operational Security program manager, goes dumpster diving to make sure there is no personal or classified information being thrown away. (Courtesy photo)

PETERSON AIR FORCE BASE, Colo. -- One man's trash may certainly be another man's treasure, especially if that person is looking to steal personal information.

Victor Duckarmenn, Operational Security program manager for the 21st Space Wing, finds these "treasures" in the trash all the time; including medical records, personal finances and military proprietary information.

"Dumpsters on base are public dumpsters. Personnel should be reminded that disposal of Privacy Act information goes off base," said Duckarmenn.

According to Air Force Instruction 10-701, 1.4.17, which went into effect June 8, 2011, anyone not properly disposing of sensitive information "will be considered by commanders/directors for appropriate disciplinary action."

"These things are very personal details that set up what we call a profile on an individual. And if someone wants to attack that family or profile that family, they sell that information to a proxy -- a thief," said Duckarmenn.

According to the 2010 Federal Trade Commission Data Clearinghouse, Colorado was 10th in the nation for identity theft, making it even more important to know how to protect personal information. "We call it the 3-D strategy," Duckarmenn said. "It's basically: deter, detect and defend."

To prevent information being stolen by dumpster divers, he said, "shred, shred, shred."

Last year the 21st Space Wing spent money to provide most offices with shredders.

Beyond old fashioned stealing, there are other ways for thieves to access personal information. Anyone with a debit or credit card is vulnerable to skimming.

"Skimming is when they put an electrical device in an ATM and you put your card in there and it records everything you do. Then, they come by and pull it out," said Duckarmenn.

Skimming can also happen when a card is used at businesses and restaurants.

According to Duckarmenn, the best thing to do is carry cash and never use an ATM you don't trust.

Electronic pick pocketing, or hacking, is also something anyone with a credit card, Common Access Card or passport should take measures to prevent.

"They will try to electronically steal the information that's on your radio frequency ID, which is on your CAC card," said Duckarmenn.

This can happen from as far as 40 feet away.

Electromagnetic covers and wallets are available to prevent information from being hacked from cards. Small card covers are available for purchase in the Military Personnel Flight customer service center. Larger covers can be purchased online.

Phishing, right now, is one of the biggest threats to everyone on the internet. Phishing websites disguise themselves as websites you trust, such as the IRS or a bank. "It asks for personal data, your passwords, your Social (Security number) all the kinds of information that would in fact give up your ID," said Duckarmenn.

It's important to know which a legitimate website is and which is not. The FTC recommends calling the agency to ask if they do, in fact, need your information.

If you've been the victim of identity fraud, Duckarmenn says, there are several things you can do. Start by contacting the FTC to report the theft, or for cyber crimes, contact the United States Computer Emergency Readiness Team. You can also always contact a supervisor, OPSEC coordinator or privacy act officer.

And if Duckarmenn finds your information in the trash, he will be contacting you.

"Protect your stuff," he said. "Keep track of your CAC cards and your personal information. That's key. That's critical, short and sweet."

If you've been the victim of identity theft, start by contacting these organizations:

Colorado Bureau of Investigation

Federal Trade Commission

Unites States Computer Emergency Readiness Team

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