By Jim Garamone

American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON - Beginning June 1, Social Security numbers on military identification cards will begin to disappear, said Air Force Maj. Monica M. Matoush, a Pentagon spokeswoman.

The effort is part of a larger plan to protect service members and other Defense Department identification card holders from identity theft, officials said.

Criminals use Social Security numbers to steal identities, allowing them to pillage resources, establish credit or to hijack credit cards, bank accounts or debit cards.

Currently, the Social Security number is printed on the back of common access cards, and on the front of cards issued to dependents and retirees. Beginning in June, when current cards expire, they will be replaced with new cards having a Defense Department identification number replacing the Social Security number, officials said.

The Defense Department identification number is a unique 10-digit number that is assigned to every person with a direct relationship with the department. The new number also will be the service member's Geneva Convention identification number.

An 11-digit Defense Department benefits number also will appear on the cards of those people eligible for benefits. The first nine digits are common to a sponsor, the official said, and the last two digits will identify a specific person within the sponsor's family.

Social Security numbers embedded in the bar codes on the back of identification cards will remain there for the time being, and will be phased out beginning in 2012.

The department will replace identification cards as they expire.

"Because cards will be replaced upon expiration, it will be approximately four years until all cards are replaced with the DOD ID number," Matoush said.

The identity protection program began in 2008, when DOD started removing Social Security numbers from family member identification cards.

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