Local News

Fort Bragg Officials Warn of Military Scam

Posted June 1, 2007 5:37 p.m. EDT
Updated June 1, 2007 7:12 p.m. EDT

— It's a military spouse's worst nightmare – getting word that their soldier has been injured or killed at war.

And now, scam artists are taking advantage of that fear.

Kristine Poirier is stressed out. Her husband is just days away from deploying, leaving her and their 9-month-old daughter, Jacqueline, alone.

Knowing that someone could prey on her distress is upsetting.

“It’s horrible,” she said. “Our troops are in Iraq and Afghanistan and everywhere else fighting and to be taken advantage of like that really hurts."

But con artists are counting on wives like Kristine to give out personal information in a weak moment.

Pretending to work for the Red Cross, they have called several families, saying their soldier has been injured in Iraq. Before that soldier can get treatment, the caller asks to verify his or her social security number and date of birth.

It's a scam that sickens many at Fort Bragg.

"Playing off the emotions of a soldier's family while they're deployed is despicable and outright cruel,” said Tom McCollum, 18th Airborne Corps spokesman.

Outraged Fort Bragg leaders are spreading the word. They want to make sure families know about the scam and understand how the notification process really works.

If a soldier is injured at war, the family will be notified by that soldier himself, his commander or someone in his chain of command. Family will be notified by the casualty notification office if the soldier has died, according to Fort Bragg officials.

The Red Cross never contacts a family to inform them of an injury. They offer assistance after notification has been made.

Soldiers also fill out pre-deployment information sheets, which includes their social security number and other personal information. The Army has their information ready in case something happens and wouldn’t need to ask family members.

Every unit at Fort Bragg holds a pre-deployment meeting with soldiers and their spouses to inform them about how to be safe at home while the soldier is away. They talk about operational security and not giving out information that could put them or their soldier at risk.

Family Readiness Groups are there for spouses, too. Lois Stubbs is an FRG leader. She instructs families not to give personal details to anyone. But when emotions are flying, she can understand why they falter.

"I can see how you could be in such a state of shock, in a split second you make a wrong decision and give out information,” Stubbs said.

So far, the scam hasn't hit Fort Bragg, but the Red Cross has sent warnings out to all 769 Red Cross chapters nationwide.

Giving out false information concerning soldiers at war is a federal crime punishable by up to five years in prison.