24 November 2010

Boundless Cruelty

Photo from "Canadian Forces" on Facebook
It seems that a malicious practical joke--and I use the term "joke" very loosely--has made its way from the US into Canada.  The Montreal Gazette reports that families in Quebec are receiving phone calls from a sadistic caller informing them that their loved ones were killed in Afghanistan.

This isn't just a prank, either; it's often the prelude to a scam.  In 2008, a newspaper in Clarksville, TN, reported that two men in Army dress uniforms knocked on doors of spouses at Fort Campbell, home of the US Army's 101st Airborne Division.

Scammers, convincingly-dressed in military uniforms, can cause enough distress that victims might might divulge personal information, such as Social Security Numbers, frequently written on military paperwork.  Such information can be used for identity fraud.

The best way to stop this scam in its tracks is to educate family members.  A US Army news release from Fort Knox, not far from Fort Campbell, describes family members receiving training on the casualty notification process.  

Service members might easily spot a fraud in a dress uniform.  After all, a trained soldier can usually spot a uniform infraction a mile away.  Spouses, however, often have a harder time doing so, as many only see their loved ones in utility uniforms.  

Phony Casualty Notification Officers (CNOs) also steal cues from Hollywood movies; expressing condolences on behalf of the President of the United States, not the Secretary of the Army.  Other subtle clues might also give away a fraud; real CNOs always refer to the deceased service member by name, never using phrases such as "his remains will be transferred to Dover".  According to Army officials, such terminology dehumanizes the deceased service member.  

Most importantly, notifications are never made over the phone, neither in the US, nor in Canada. (Though advances in information technology makes the military's job far more difficult)

Both Canadian and US forces are working to educate families on the casualty notification process.  

No comments: