Sunday, January 24, 2010

Fighting the fakes: Bogus military heroes spur outcry for action

"'Identity theft is a bogus argument,' he said.

He said that before 1968, the military branches used service numbers -- different from Social Security numbers -- that can be published. It also is possible to publish the Social Security numbers of dead people, he said. That leaves a relatively small number of medal recipients, he said.

And there are other identifiers, such as hometowns and middle initials, that can be safely used, he said.

Sterner said the ultimate proof that the idea will work is his database, which he said is 99 percent complete for the Medal of Honor and the service crosses, the top two military awards for valor.

Creating a federal database would cost between $8 million and $10 million, he said, but it would eliminate an estimated $35 million annually in fraud.

"They bilk a whole lot of people out of money," Sterner said. "The people who do this stuff don't just do it for bragging rights."

Outside the obvious scams -- one phony prisoner of war from Texas listed on the P.O.W. Network solicited a free fishing boat -- there are other losses."

Read more at El Paso Times
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