Importance of keeping PII personal

  • Published
  • By Staff Sgt. Greg C. Biondo
  • 81st Training Wing Public Affairs
Name rank and social security number-

Presenting this personal identifiable information is almost standard operating procedure for military members. However, being careless with this information could result in identity theft, financial hardships and emotional strain.

"PII is anything that links or relates to an individual and essentially can be used to steal their identity," said Phyllis Pires, base Privacy Act and Freedom of Information Act manager. "We're just like the public sector -- we have to protect this information and when there is a breach, we have to let the affected people know. Sometimes these breaches affect thousands of people. That's a lot of wasted man-hours for everyone."

In 2012, an estimated 16.6 million people in the United States experienced some form of identity theft, according to Bureau of Justice Statistics.

Most PII breaches occur due to carelessness. Not sending PII through encrypted email or emailing information to the wrong person are the most common infractions at Keesler. Emailing an unencrypted enlisted performance report without removing all sections that include any part of a social security number is an example of a PII breach. When PII is in physical form, it should be shredded rather than thrown in the trash or recycling bin.

"We've become very complacent," said Pires. "Make sure that who you're giving PII to are people who have a need to know. That is the big thing. Protect the information like it's your own."

"Victims who had personal information misused, such as a social security number, were more likely to experience financial, legal or other problems as a result of the incident than other types of identity theft victims. In addition, about 6 percent of victims who experienced the fraudulent use of personal information to create a new account reported significant problems at work or school, compared to about 1 percent of victims of credit card fraud and bank account fraud," noted the BJS.

Remember that even the last four digits of a social security number are considered PII and could be used to steal someone's identity, added Pires.

The Department of Defense is currently moving away from the use of social security numbers on Common Access Cards and cards for those eligible for Department of Defense benefits, and moving toward the use of the DOD identification number to help combat identity theft.