Hard to read, wasn’t it?
Top Brass Hit by Scam
Web Postings Lead to Fake Credit Cards
By Barbara Starr
W A S H I N G T O N, Dec. 8 - The Secret Service and military authorities have opened an investigation into a scam in which dozens of high-ranking military officers have had their Social Security numbers taken off an
Internet site and used to illegally obtain credit cards in their names.
Some 40 senior Marine Corps generals and Navy admirals alone have been hit by the scam, according to Brig. Gen. Joseph Composto, the Marines’ top lawyer.
The criminal activity appears to be a result of growing use of the Internet. The names and Social Security numbers of 4,800 military officers were posted on the Web site of a Pennsylvania-based privacy advocate seeking
to make a point.
The information was taken from a 1997 ongressional Record report, which published the details as part of the record of Senate votes approving military promotions. Since then, the Congressional Record has stopped
publishing the Social Security numbers on promotion lists.
Free Speech Issues Raised
The bank credit cards, issued by First USA Bank of Wilmington, Del.,
were used to make purchases and obtain cash advances. Most of the accounts were
immediately closed when the fraud was discovered.
The bank is now cooperating with federal investigators and has waived the $50 limit on fraudulent charges for the military officers victimized by the crime.
A memo written by Composto indicates that despite a direct request from the Secret Service, “the individual responsible for posting the names and SSNs refuses to remove the information from the Web page.”
Composto also said the U.S. attorney’s office has refused to initiate legal action against the Web site on First Amendment grounds because the information was in the public domain in the Congressional Record.
Could ID Number Be a Threat?
Composto has also raised a related issue. In a detailed proposal made to the Defense Department general counsel, Composto is recommending that the military change the service number of all individuals from their Social Security number to an unrelated number - in large part to due to Internet privacy concerns.
Several years ago, the military switched to using Social Security numbers rather than unrelated identification numbers. “The information age presents opportunities for savvy computer-literate enemies, and other opponents of the United States, to use SSNs as a method of attack,” said Composto.
Under the Geneva Convention - a 1949 international agreement governing treatment of prisoners of war - POWs are required to give their military identification number.
If, in the case of American POWs, that is their Social Security number, then iterrogators could use that information on the Internet to find out personal financial and medical information, including the possible location of their families.
Oh, I’m gonna keep using these #%@&* codes 'til I get 'em right.