News that their personal information could be in the wrong hands spread fast among East Texas veterans. "I'm sorry that it got stolen and I hope they catch 'em," says veteran Mike Rose. "They shouldn't have had a right to take [personal information] out of the V.A. period," says veteran C.C. Campbell. Hearing the news for veteran John Smith reminded him of when his identity was stolen and someone added themselves to his auto insurance policy. "If they weren't on top of it at the insurance company and she would have had a wreck or something, I would have been having problems," says Smith. It's unclear how much East Texas veterans' personal info is out there, but FBI special agent Peter Galbraith says don't wait until your identity is stolen to do something. First, get copies of your credit report. "Secondly they can put alerts on their credit report for abnormal activity. All of a sudden they see numerous credit card (inquiries), that could alert the credit card company directly to ask if that's you or someone else," says Galbraith. "I can be C.C. Campbell somewhere else, instead of C.C. Campbell in Tyler," says Campbell if someone successfully stole his identity. He says he will be looking closely to his personal records just in case. Unfortunately in today's world, everybody has access to anyone's personal information. "Whether it's on the internet, whether it's on public records, we give it out to our schools,churches, many government agencies, we are subject to someone committing criminal acts," warns Galbraith.
The stolen info mainly includes those veterans who served and have been discharged since 1975. Data of veterans discharged before 1975, who submitted claims to the V.A., may also be included. For more info, veterans are being asked to call the U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs at 1-800-333-4636. Phone line hours are 8 a.m. to 9 p.m. EDT.