FORT RUCKER, Ala. (April 25, 2013) -- Unfortunately, all too often service members are victims of identity theft. In fact, many identity thieves specifically target service members and their Families.

Phishing is a common tactic used to obtain personal information in order to steal identities. Phishing occurs when a fraudulent email is sent claiming to be from a legitimate business -- often a bank, E-bay, Amazon, or even the Internal Revenue Service.

The email message normally states that your account information needs to be updated or verified, and then it will direct you to a link where you are required to enter your personal information. But the link is not what it seems -- in reality the link directs you to a fake site where the personal information you enter is used to steal your identity.

Often, the email will contain threats that your account is facing suspension or closure if you do not comply with the email's demands. If you receive a phishy email, forward it to spam@uce.gov.

Hacking is another tactic used by identity thieves. The identity thief hacks into your email or other online account to access your personal information, or into a company's database to access its records.

In order to protect yourself from hackers, avoid using an obvious password like your birth date, your mother's maiden name, or the last four digits of your Social Security number.

Last year, the Red Cross published a press release warning of another type of scam directed at service members' Families. The scam involves a caller contacting the Family of a deployed Soldier, claiming to be from the Red Cross.

The caller will tell the Family member that the Soldier was either injured or killed, and will immediately ask for the Soldier's personal information.

The caller may also request money to help cover alleged medical expenses of the injured Soldier. Beware, this is just another scam! The Red Cross will never contact the Family members of a Soldier to request information or money. If you receive such a call, contact your Family readiness group or the local military personnel office.

While you generally cannot avoid being contacted by individuals attempting to use these types of scams, you can protect yourself by following the below recommendations.

Be skeptical. If something sounds too good to be true, it is probably a scam. Avoid providing personal information over the phone or via email unless you know who you are dealing with.

Never click on links sent in unsolicited emails; instead, type in a Web address you know.

While deployed, you can have an "Active Duty Alert" on your credit report. This alert requires creditors to verify your identity before granting credit in your name and it will last for one year. A Power of Attorney can place or remove the alert -- see www.ftc.gov for more information.

Keep a close eye on your credit report, bank accounts and credit card statements by visiting www.annualcreditreport.com, or calling (877)-322-8228.

If you are a victim of identity theft, file a police report and a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission at www.ftc.gov/idtheft or by phone at (877) ID-THEFT. You should also contact the security or fraud department of each company where an account was opened or charged without your approval.

Service Members and their Families can also file a complaint with the Military Sentinel at www.ftc.gov/sentinel/military/.

Finally, you may contact a legal assistance attorney at 255-3482 for free legal advice.

Page last updated Thu April 25th, 2013 at 00:00