Nothing makes my heart swell more than when I hear the National Anthem – and nothing makes me sicker than hearing that a U.S. Marine has been accused of supplying information to a fraudster. According to The Miami Herald, a Florida woman was sentenced to almost six years in prison for stealing identities of U.S. Marines and earning herself thousands of dollars. (Kudos for catching her!)
The article reported that the woman “plotted with a Marine from North Miami who allegedly supplied her with the stolen IDs of fellow Marines while he was stationed in Afghanistan.” According to the charges, the woman filed false returns in the names of at least 14 people, including several of the Marines stationed with the accused Marine. A list containing the names and Social Security numbers of 44 other Marines was found in the Marine defendant’s quarters at Camp Leatherneck. Of those, 21 were found on lists in the woman’s residence in Florida.
The woman sought about $54,000 in online returns. A criminal complaint alleges that she was planning on giving half to the Marine defendant when he returned from service.
The Marine defendant has pleaded not guilty to the charges. He is, of course, innocent until proven guilty.
The idea that anyone would steal the identities of the men and women who serve our country is reprehensible and engenders a lot of emotion, so let’s break this down to brass tacks. The convicted fraudster filed her phony tax returns online – a rules-based system is unlikely to catch this type of fraud. Instead, this is a problem of identity-based fraud requiring an identity-based solution. If your agency provides an online benefit or service, you should ask yourself: does my agency have the tools it needs to verify and authenticate the identity of the individual requesting the benefit or service? If not, your agency is likely being defrauded.