Posted by Elisabeth Leamy, Fri Jun 09 2006, 08:38PM

This week there were fresh concerns about fraud and national security, after revelations that millions of soldiers' personal financial records were breached

This week there were fresh concerns about fraud and national security, after revelations that millions of soldiers' personal financial records were breached. The exposure occurred after a Veterans' Affairs employee took the records home without authorization and burglars stole his laptop computer. At first, the Pentagon thought only veterans' records were affected, but now it's clear the birth dates and social security numbers of 80-percent of the active military are in jeopardy.I just think whoever's in charge of protecting needs to step it up a bit, Sergeant David Drafton told ABC News. "I think its a serious problem we're going to have to address as a nation," added Brigadier General Steve Patton of the U.S. Marine Corps.

2.2 million members of the active service, guard and reserves are at risk. What's maddening for military families is that they don't yet know who they are because the veterans' administration hasn't told them yet. Of course, that means all of them need to be on guard. They are just the latest. In the past year, more than 55-million consumers' records have been breached.

Just as military families are in the dark about this data breach, most Americans don't know when they have reason to worry. Only 23 states require companies to inform customers when their information has been exposed. They are: Arkansas, California, Connecticut, Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Indiana, Louisiana, Maine, Minnesota, Montana, New Jersey, New York, Nevada, North Carolina, North Dakota, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Tennessee, Texas, and Washington.

So how do you protect yourself from the unknown?
Be alert to suspicious financial activity. Like receiving credit cards in the mail when you didn't apply for any or failing to receive your monthly bills because a crook has changed your address.

If you feel you're at risk, you can ask the credit bureaus to place a free 90-day fraud alert on your file. Businesses are then supposed to call you before issuing any new credit in your name.

Next, take advantage of free credit reports. Requesting a fraud alert entitles you to one from each of the 3 credit bureaus. Order those now. And check back again in 6 months, using the free credit report all Americans can now get once a year. (See contact information below.)

Finally, file a police report if you do find fraudulent accounts. Some departments are reluctant to do the paperwork, but insist. It's the law. With that police report, the credit bureaus are required to delete fraudulent accounts from your record.

Despite a string of high-profile data breaches that started almost exactly a year ago, Congress has not passed any new legislation to protect consumers. Consumer groups are pressing congress to make the 90-day fraud alert last longer. And they want something, that a handful of states already have, called a credit freeze, where nobody can even view your credit without your permission, which means nobody can open a new account.

To file a free 90-day fraud alert and get free credit reports available to victims of fraud:

To get the free annual credit report every American is entitled to: or (877) 322-8228

For more information about identity theft: