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ID Theft Scam Targets MilSpouses

WASHINGTON -- The American Red Cross is warning military spouses about a new identity-theft scam that targets family members of deployed troops.

The Red Cross was alerted of the scam earlier this month, said Devorah Goldburg of the Red Cross.

The scam involves a person with an American accent calling a military spouse, identifying herself as a representative of the Red Cross, and telling the spouse that her husband was hurt in Iraq and was medically evacuated to Germany. The caller then says that doctors can't start treatment until paperwork is completed, and that to start the paperwork they need the spouse to verify her husband's social security number and date of birth.

It is hard to determine how many spouses have been targeted by this scam, Ms. Goldburg said, as there are many ways for spouses to report problems like this. However, one confirmed report was enough for the Red Cross to act, she said.

"We know that it happened to one person; it was probably going to happen to others, and we wanted to be prudent and alert people," she said.

American Red Cross representatives typically do not contact military members or dependents directly and almost always go through a commander or first sergeant, according to a Red Cross news release. Military family members are urged not to give out any personal information over the phone if contacted by unknown individuals, including confirmation that their spouse is deployed.

In addition, Red Cross representatives contact military members or dependents directly only in response to an emergency message initiated by a family member, the news release said. The Red Cross does not report any type of casualty information to family members; the Defense Department will contact families directly about family members' injuries.

It is a federal crime, punishable by up to five years in prison, for a person to fraudulently pretend to be a member of, or an agent for, the American Red Cross for the purpose of soliciting, collecting, or receiving money or material, according to the news release. Any military family member who receives such a call is urged to report it to his or her local family readiness group or military personnel flight.

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