Retired Fort Bragg soldier learns identity, military benefits were stolen 15 years ago

FAYETTEVILLE, N.C. (WTVD) -- A retired Fort Bragg soldier is still dealing with the effects of identity theft 15 years after it happened to him.

Overcoming challenges is one of Tim Payne's biggest strengths. In July 2011, while on his third deployment in Afghanistan, his unit was attacked. Payne survived, but he lost both his legs.

"Immediately my life was flipped upside down," Tim Payne said.

After a long recovery, Payne wrote a book. He shared his story and inspired others by competing at a para-athlete.

"So in 2019, I was kind of done with all of that and I wanted to get into work in support of the government and serve people in a capacity by sharing what I learned," Payne recalled.

While job hunting and going through the hiring process, Payne discovered a terrible truth: His identity had been stolen.

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Back in 2005, while he was still in the Army, someone stole his identity and set up accounts to collect his military benefits.

"It was like, is this really happening to me? Like is this really going on?" Payne said.

Unfortunately, that type of identity theft is all too common for active-duty soldiers.

Renee Wikstrom with the Better Business Bureau said thieves love to target military personnel and their families when service members are deployed. That's because they tend to be more vulnerable and less likely to notice the signs.

"Young people in the military or those who are about to retire out of the military, those two groups of people are who scammers hit," Wikstrom said.

She warns everybody to double check their personal information on records and be sure to shred any documents with sensitive information, don't just throw them away.

"It's like protecting your baby, protect your private information," Wikstrom said.

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All thieves need to steal your identity are a few key numbers

For Payne, he's now making it his mission to inform soldiers about how important it is to protect their personal information now.

"The reason I am talking to you is that I want other soldiers to double-check their records to make sure that they don't become a victim, because it will affect their transition going into any other position or federal job," Payne said.
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