| March 15, 2016

Military Service Member ID Theft Alert

MyPay account scam gives jeweler account access to add charges.

Identity theft scams are never nice, but a new scam targeting Defense Finance Accounting Service (DFAS) MyPay accounts of military service members may just sink to a new low. NBC 7 in San Diego released an investigative report on a San Diego jewelry store accused of using an inside U.S. Marine contact to illegally obtain and reset MyPay PIN numbers, allegedly setting up automatic recurring payments from those accounts.

The Marine Corporal Tate who passed PIN numbers to at least one Romano’s Jewelry employee worked in the accounting office at Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton so he had easy access to other service member’s PIN numbers. According to the charges set forth in the felony case against Romano’s Jewelers and two employees, Tate reset at least 143 PINs over a period of several months.

In exchange for passing along PINs from other Marine service members, Tate received cash as well as jewelry and cleared a store credit account debt he himself owed to the company. Tate has already been charged and convicted in separate military court hearing. He admitted to bribery, conspiracy and fraud and was sentenced to 10 months of confinement, a $2,260 fine and a bad conduct discharge following his conviction at a special court martial.

The reason the Marine was already convicted is because the criminal activity actually took place between 2010 and 2012. The case is only now making news publicly because formal criminal charges have been brought against the jeweler and the two employees who the complaint alleges were instructed to obtain personal financial information for the purpose of adding unauthorized charges. The store and the employees each face 14 felony counts of identity theft and conspiracy.

The defense attorney for Romano’s denies any owner or supervisor of Romano’s was aware for what was going on. They claim the employee who was involved with the Marine was terminated a few years ago due to performance issues. However, the attorney refused to answer when asked whether two employees named in the case were still employed by Romano’s.

However although the case is still pending in civilian court, the U.S. Navy at least isn’t taking any chances. It has warned all sailors in the San Diego region about the company.

Protecting PIN accounts from ID theft

This story serves as a warning – not just to military service members with MyPay PIN numbers, but also civilians with bank account PINs. Once a PIN number for an account is obtained, it can give someone else carte blanche access to that financial account. Then it’s just a matter of setting up fraudulent recurring payments to dummy credit accounts and savvy thief can steal your money.

 

This type of theft is often subtle – smart scammers don’t drain an account completely. Instead, they set up small recurring that can easily be missed unless you’re reviewing your monthly transaction statements carefully. As a result, you aren’t even aware that you’re the victim of theft until much later.

Consolidated Credit offers these tips to service members and civilians who have PIN-based accounts to help them avoid becoming a victim of identity theft:

  1. Reset PINs regularly – changing your PIN can help prevent long-term recurring fraud and will help you ensure that someone else hasn’t reset your PIN for you
  2. Always read your monthly statements – note transactions that you don’t recognize and do some research to make sure that purchase was really yours.
  3. Maintain a list of recurring payments – most people have at least several accounts that get paid automatically and things like entertainment streaming accounts have low monthly fees like these fraudulent recurring charges. Know who you’re paying so you can easily identify potential fraud.

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