Protect PII to take slice out of identity theft

  • Published
  • By Senior Airman Michelle Vickers
  • 1st Special Operations Wing Public Affairs
Just as Airmen train in self-aid and buddy care to physically care for each other in an emergency, Airmen can help protect their co-workers from identity theft by properly handling personally identifiable information.

A few examples of PII include full or partial social security numbers, dates of birth, mother's maiden name and more.

PII is sensitive information and its disclosure could potentially harm the individuals to whom it belongs, according to the Air Force Privacy and Civil Liberties Office. If PII falls into the wrong hands it can be used to steal a person's identity. Armed with personal information, thieves may open credit cards in someone's name or access their bank accounts.

"If you want to buy a house or a car you cannot do so until your credit is squared away," said Peggy Jones, 1st Special Operations Communications Squadron privacy act manager. "You should always look at your credit rating at least once a year, if not more often."

To safeguard PII, Airmen should use Privacy Act cover sheets on filed documents with PII, and not post PII on places easily accessed by others. Shred documents containing PII when no longer needed. Airmen may protect PII sent via email by encryption.

"Someone else can open an email if it's not encrypted, and the information is compromised at that point," Jones said. "Even though you sent it to yourself, there are other people out there who can get that information."

In addition to the risk of identity theft, PII breaches will lead to computer account locks on those sending sensitive information improperly.

"If individuals send out an email with personal information, they will get their account privileges removed," said Charlene Hills, 1st Special Operations Communications Squadron assistant PII manager. "They have to go through an investigation, which takes time away from their job."

Though incidents of PII breaches on Hurlburt Field are down, increased awareness of what PII is and how to properly handle it is necessary, said Jones.

"Take a minute and think before you press that 'send' button," Hills said.

To report exposed PII or for questions, contact the base privacy act manager at 884-6122.